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Places Buffalo suburbs are interesting

cnyOntario

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64
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4
Buffalo suburbs are very different than Syracuse's suburbs. Here are a few examples:

hotels like this:


old redesigned strip plazas with a color scheme


a big stadium out in the middle of nowhere (almost)


architectural detail for shopping centers and restaurants (nothing like this in Syracuse)



green roof topped housing


old housing set way back from the road (it's as though they knew the road would become wide


again, don't see these type of buildings in the Syracuse area


overall Buffalo suburbs have a lot of sidewalks, well designed shopping centers, good landscaping, and are growing much faster than Syracuse's suburbs


I think some cities, including Syracuse, could take some tips from the Buffalo area.

Moderator note:

2019-10-07: Removed broken inline images from pbase.com.
 
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UpstateNYRox

Cyburbian
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45
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2
It looks like you started out at the Williamsville/Cheektowaga border near the airport and headed south along Transit Road through the sprawling burb of Lancaster down to the Southtowns of Orchard Park and Hamburg along Milestrip Road which are also seeing lots of new development and growth. Many people fail to realize that the population of the Buffalo metro outside the city limits is actually increasing and the photos represent pretty accurately what the outer suburban areas are like. Its a shame areas like those are booming with new commercial and residential while the city proper is missing out on the party.


 
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ablarc

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bizzo, Leon Krier says it doesn't make any difference what you build in the suburbs. I could use your post to illustrate his thesis.
 

Rumpy Tunanator

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bizzo34 said:
I think some cities, including Syracuse, could take some tips from the Buffalo area.
What tips? Continue to develop greenland and sprawl out while the county's population as a whole continues to decline? Investing tax-payers money in low-density development? This development is only being fueled by the decline of the city and inner suburbs.

You mention there is lots of sidewalks but nobody uses them, because if you try to even cross the four lane or six lane roads that are running over capacity you'll get run over.

Overall, I think these suburbs look the same as anywhere else.
 
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Unless there's more to the Buffalo suburbs that what's indicated in these pictures, I would have to agree with Rumpy in that these suburbs look like any other typical suburb anywhere else.

Those strip malls may look different than the typical box, but overall, I think they are still very uninspiring. I don't think that an urban type of design is necessarily the best thing for a suburb, but what I see in these pictures and what I've seen in the other suburban areas don't seem to work either.

BTW, what's the deal with that hotel? It looks like an expanded KFC with toy soldiers and fake snow around the perimeter. 8-!
 

boiker

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I think bizzo was probably saying that the architecture and design of the centers are better than that in the Syracuse area. I agree that when you have bad development pattersns, such as suburban, and the political will is small, it is extremely difficult to get any 'improvement' in architecture or design over the standard corporate box and plan.....and that may be the case in Syracuse?

Some of the architecture shown is nice, middle-of-the-road improvement over the standard designs. However, its not a goal I would encourage to be established for a community.
 

BKM

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Yeah, the sidewalks are nice, but otherwise this looks like run-of-the-mill examples from The National Automotive Slum. Chain restaurants, fry pits, oil and lubes, and lots and lots of big parking lots with nary a tree in sight. The Starbucks is a little better than average, but...an example for anything? Suburban Syracuse must be really, really bad.
 

Dan

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Having worked in suburban areas around the United States, I feel confident in saying that Buffalo tends to be about 10 to 15 years behind the curve -- at least compared to other US cities -- when it comes to architectural and site design of suburban commercial development. If that's really the case, I shudder to think about what's being built in Syracuse.

Point-by-point - why are Buffalo's suburban retail districts behind the times?

* Except for Amherst, Buffalo's suburbs don't have planning departments.

* Most of Buffalo's suburbs don't have architectural design regulations. High-quality architectural materials, hardscaping, parking lot landscaping, four-sided design, and varying building lines to provide texture isn't something that's considered as much as in many other parts of the country.

* Buffalo's suburbs don't have the anything-goes sign regulations of Texas or Georgia, but they aren't tough like what you would see in suburban Denver, Cleveland, Kansas City or Phoenix. Niagara County municipalities and the eastern suburbs (West Seneca, Cheektowaga, Lancaster, Depew) have the most lenient sign regulations, the Southtowns the strictest, the Northtowns in-between. A typical freestanding business would have a 20' or 25' tall pole sign; not the 6' tall monument sign of a business in suburban Cleveland or Phoenix, but fortunately not the 100' tall monster of an eqivalent establishment in suburban Atlanta or along a Texas frontage road.

* Because the economy in Buffalo is stagnant, suburban redevelopment hasn't occured at the pace of other cities. There are few economic pressures to redevelop commercial buildings and shopping centers from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Suburban Buffalo has an unusually large number of bland, utilitarian jet-age plazas (or, in a Buffalo accent, "ple-aaaaeh-suhs") from the pre-mall era; Sheridan-Delaware Plaza, Sheridan-Harlem Plaza, Northtown, Transittown, Airport Plaza, and Southgate are the ones that come to mind now. One department store, one supermarket, a space for what was called a "junior department store," and tons of fabric shops, Greek restaurants, orthopedic shoe stores and Hallmark card shops inbetween. No landscaping, no architectural embellishment, no seating areas, no nothing but stores and parking. Kunstler would swear like a Night at the Apollo comedian if he saw a 1950s-era suburban Buffalo shopping center.

* Another "everywhere but Buffalo" phenomenon - lifestyle centers. 'Nuff said - I don't want to get into that debate anymore.

Planderella said:
BTW, what's the deal with that hotel? It looks like an expanded KFC with toy soldiers and fake snow around the perimeter. 8-!
Garden Place Hotel. Owned by the same people that own Salvatore's Italian Garden, a nearby Italian restaurant. To say that Salvatore's is gaudy would be an understatement.
 
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I hope these pictures are not indicative of the best of Buffalo's suburbs. The architecture is very ho-hum if not unattractive, and the sidewalks aren't even consistent. Couldn't even make out a good skate spot--a nice ledge, gap or anything! Must be tough being a kid here. And where are the people in the pics? In bizzo34's defense I located one crosswalk light, but that's just one positive element.
 
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Not sure why the original poster decided to pick on Syracuse. I would put all upstate cities in the same category of horrible and no design guidelines. What I saw in Buffalo was not good. Been to both cities, I would give Syracuse a thumbs up on Buffalo. They have issues of sprawl, but with the university area and downtown getting fixed up, it just seems like it had more going for it.
 

ChevyChaseDC

Cyburbian
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190
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7
I see zero to brag about in these photos. Strip malls with acres of parking, whether they have turrets, cuppolas, and small quaint signs, are otherwise pretty much the same from Buffalo to Tampa to San Diego. If this is the "progress" the Buffalo region has made, then no wonder so many of Buffalo's young people leave en masse.
 

cnyOntario

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64
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4
Compared to Kalamazoo, Ann Arbor, Cleveland, Toledo, Buffalo, and Rochester.....Syracuse has ugly suburbs. An average person (non planner) is turned off by the Syracuse suburbs because it looks untidy, and unmodern. Most of the suburbs were built in the 70s and 80s and very little new development has happened since.

Here are some examples of no landscaping, ugly designs, and just a plain messy built environment :

no landscaping
1417Clayekerdoffices466.jpg

brush
1417ClayapartmentsJG469.jpg

old ugly abandoned gas stations
1417clayabandonedbuilding467.jpg

wetlands in front of power strip malls
1417Brush460.jpg

unattractive architecture
1417Camillusfairmountfairmall492.jpg

speaks for itself
1417camillusarea493.jpg

ugly new houses
1417Fawnmeadows534.jpg

wal-marts at there worst
1417walmarthill540.jpg

worn out road markings are common
1417townofonondaga515.jpg

can you say ugly
1417Salina161.jpg

strip malls with no design standards
1417Nothernlightsshopping.jpg

ugly townhomes
1417NStownhomes322.jpg

if you could see it, it's really bad
1417NSplaza313.jpg

you gotta love industry on main roads next to residential
1417Cicero140grit.jpg

this is a "major intersection" between Route 31 and Lakeshore
1417Cicero134lakeshore.jpg

more ugliness
1417Cicerotownhomes331.jpg

newly painted "burlington coat factory" (doesn't it look great LOL)
1417Ciceroburlingtoncoat325.jpg

Sorry if I got too carried away :)
 

boiker

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It's hard to compare 70s/80s retail and zoning to 90s/00s retail development. So many things have changed in marketing, zoning, and planning.

I could go around any suburban area built in the 70s and 80s and come up with an equal number of horribly designed commercial areas. I could also go around to any 90s/00s commercial area and find dozens of examples that reflect the buffalo suburbs.

Some of those Syracuse 'burbs shots were just inhumane. horrible.

At least the shots of the Buffalo 'burbs were nearing tolerable.
 

BKM

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Well, as bad as it is, there is really little difference between these last photos, and, to my eyes, your first set. Edit: I guess what I really mean to say is that a few extra plastic and plaster trim pieces don't make a cityscape significantly better. The older stuff from the 1950s and 60s in Syracuse does reflect an older, uglier era, but aso a more innocent, less "sophisticated" era. I dislike the theme architecture in many of the Buffalo examples-that just reflects my taste.

Our defensive reaction was more to the cheerleading, I think. We are a cynical bunch :)
 

Rumpy Tunanator

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Change the names of the streets in the suburbs here and I'd swear I was in the suburbs there. Looks the same. :p
 

cnyOntario

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Well, at least now you understand where I'm coming from. When I see what you call "tolerable" suburban development in other cities, I get jealous. :)

Any suggestions in how I would go about making suburban Syracuse development more tolerable? Why do other suburbs look so much better? Is it the leadership or the developers or.....something else?

BTW, Syracuse is known locally for accepting mediocrity.
 

boiker

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bizzo34 said:
BTW, Syracuse is known locally for accepting mediocrity.
You've said it all right there. If you plan for well developed and designed retail.. you can demand it. If your community doesn't have a retail development plan, you get stuck with whatever design the developer brings forward, you don't have the leverage to require standards or guidelines to be met.

The community I work for is begining to get excited about architectural review for commercial/residential/etc., but they are so damn scared of being sued that they won't do it. There's tons and tons of state and national precendence that shows that architectural review is an accpetable use of local police powers.
 

Dan

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Nobody can accouse Wal-Mart of not catering to the needs and desires of their host community. Look at what they did with their Cheektowaga store, for instance ...
 

Attachments

passdoubt

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bizzo34 said:
Why do other suburbs look so much better? Is it the leadership or the developers or.....something else?
Sadly I'd say it's age of the suburbs, wealth of the residents, or even better a combination of both. The old inner-ring suburbs of Philadelphia are the prettiest, along with the most wealthy outer-ring suburbs like Doylestown which can afford to retain their pre-automotive small-town cluster.

Nobody's building sustainable communities anymore, so the best examples are by far the old ones.
 

Dan

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bizzo, have you looked through the Best Practices Gallery here? You'll see some examples of commercial development, in a vehicle-oriented suburban context, that will make you truly weep for upstate New York.

Some of the examples, like those from Colorado, are becoming the norm there.

1wm02-med.jpg

1wm01-med.jpg

Many of the New Hampshire examples uploaded by NHPlanner would fit well in the environment of upstate NY.

I should take some photos of Legacy Village, a lifestyle center near me. Think Benderson will ever build a true lifestyle center in Buffalo? What about Pyramid in Syracuse? I doubt it.
 

BKM

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I have a couple of problems with your images, Dan, as lovely as they are:

1. Lifestyle Centers are only a tiny part of the overall suburban landscape-and they require an affluent, growing, population. To show these and assume that this is anywhere a norm that can be expected is unrealistic. Not that Syracuse couldn't maybe support one of these in one of its upscale enclaves.

2.Shouldn't Syracuse instead be pushing for its upscale development to be centered in a place like Arsenal Square, with more locally owned businesses. Especially since many of the standard Haute-Generica retailers won't look at a semi-stagnant economy like Syracuse anyway? Can Syracuse support more than one upscale enclave?

3. The Colorado example is much better. To my tastes, though, you are prettying up a problematic land use/transportation pattern. But, that's not really a response to bizzo's problem, or the typical problem we as suburban planners face, because the six lane roadways and giant parking lots are not going away.

4. Still, a Wal Mart is Wal Mart, even if its covered in fake brick panels and has extra foam curlicues and fake pre-cast columns that often look pretty awful anyway. And, the parking lot landscaping rarely thrives (our WalMArt is one exception, actually).

5. Maybe our buildings should reflect our society. Since we want low prices above all else, convenient one-stop shopping, easy parking for our Lincoln Navigators, and nationally advertized retailers, and since we, as a people, care little about our built environment, why should government planners try to impose extra, expensive gimmicks on industrial sheds? The gimmicks really don't work very well, the vast majority of people don't care anyway, and they add costs to a business community that has no local pride, no local connections, and no roots.

Boy, that's quite a gloomy rant!
 

Mud Princess

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BKM, you make some good points. As I see it, there are a couple of reasons why places like Syracuse and Buffalo and their suburbs don't have better-quality development. One: The communities themselves (or their planning boards) are so desperate for development, they don't push for higher standards. Take design guidelines, for example. You won't find them in many upstate NY suburbs. Two: as BKM notes, some of these retail developments require an "affluent, growing population." Exactly. Upstate New York is continuing to lose population. Of course, there are many affluent communities, but you won't find lifestyle centers or other cutting-edge (ha) types of development. And three: The declining property tax base has reduced the funding available for the attractive (?) roadways and streetscapes that you'll find in southern and western states. Too many communities are struggling financially. And the state's tradition of home rule makes regional approaches to these issues non-existent. These are just a few ideas.
 

boiker

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lifestyle centers and stagnet economic areas

As DecaturHawk once stated, "Central Illinois is hardly the garden of the Midwest." It's true, the Peoria area is heavily dependent upon industrial uses and historically did not have a large, upper-middle class population. However, there has been a growing population of medical and technical professionals of late.

In response to the shifting demographics, not necessarily growing population, local developers were able to convince some high-end or trendy retailers to locate in town and a proposed lifestyle center. The center has done much better than expectations and seems to have opened the door for other aging, similar communities to have the same class of national retailer.

The Shoppes

This area is desperate for any economic growth, and design/material requirements were not addressed, but it turned out fairly ok.

The Peoria MSA is only 360,000. Peoria is still looked at as a microcosm of America. Marketers use it as a test market for many new products and to see if certain store formats or retail types will "play in Peoria". So far, Peoria has proven that a high(er)-end retail environment can succeed in even the most modest metro markets.

Good quality development does not always require a wealthy population. I believe it does require a strong political commitment and good commercial or area plan that addresses what the city values and what it does not see as desirable.
 

cnyOntario

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Dan, I never looked at the Best Practices Gallery before. Those photos are great examples of what I'd like to see in the Syracuse area. Thanks for the link and those pics you showed! They make me very jealous. :)

Next time a commercial development is proposed for my area, I might contact the town planning board and link them to a couple of those pics. Maybe they will see for themselves that commercial development can be made more attractive.

This reminds me of something that happened two years ago. I e-mail the town of Cicero with ideas for future development. The Supervisor called me on the phone and told me that the town can't dictate to the developers how "Marketplace Mall" will look. She told me that the developers submit their plan and if it meets the Town codes etc etc, then it is approved. If it doesn't meet the codes etc, then the plan is changed or voted down. She acted as though she could not even suggest a better design if she wanted to. After that, I stopped my crusade for better architecture until recently when I visited and photographed many impressive commercial developments.

boiker, that lifestyle center in Peoria gives me hope for Syracuse. One problem that was brought up in the local newspaper 6 months ago.... winter weather in Upstate NY. The Syracuse Post Standard did an article about 6 months ago on the new fade of Lifestyle centers. In the article it stated that Pyramid is planning to do "indoor" lifestyle centers as additions to their malls in Buffalo and Albany. Rochester's Eastview just had an expansion which features an area like a "lifestyle center" with upscale restaurants and retail (a Wilmorite mall). In the article, Pyramid said that Syracuse's "lifestyle center" will be Destiny USA (if it ever happens). (a side note, I heard from the Syracuse chamber of commerce that Destiny USA is still on track and that a big announcement is coming soon. They said that a big hush has been over the project on purpose so they would have everything all ready to start construction when they make an announcement. Of course, I'll believe it when I see it because I don't believe it will ever happen. The chamber of commerce also said that when the project starts, the Syracuse area will need to go from 1,200 housing starts (which is up from 600 in 1997) a year to 25,000 housing starts a year to handle the growth. Hmmm, I think he over-estimated it a little ;-) )

Mud Princess, I agree with your post. I think you answered my question. I guess it will be hard to change much right now.

BKM, if Destiny USA ever happens (which I believe it won't because of many reasons), then it will be what you are saying in terms of upscale retail development near the core. Destiny USA would be built in the city, next to the inner harbor, linking itself to the northside neighborhoods. I believe the County Excutive is so much in favor of Destiny USA because he believes that retail in the city is better than in the suburbs.

Can Syracuse support more than one upscale enclave?
not right now. There are two areas in the suburbs with wealth. Manlius/DeWitt area in the eastern suburbs and the Balwinsville area in Lysander in the northwest suburbs. Both areas don't have a good location for large commercial developments. Future highway construction was halted in the late 80s when many different parties made it clear that highways only encourage suburban development. My fear is that if the Syracuse area ever does boom -Destiny USA- then we will be another Austin, TX with gridlock. The environmental movement is very big in Syracuse because of SU and SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry. Both institutions literally control the long range planning for the area. This is one reason why the area isn't doing more progressive, pro-growth planning. Instead of planning the right way to develop the suburbs, the community is instead trying to make it come to a halt. (the 2010 Plan actually states that no new water or sewer line, or new roads will be built in Onondaga County after 2010. I still don't understand how they plan to pull that off without hurting the economy)

Thanks everyone for your suggestions and advice.
 
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37
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2
Dan said:
bizzo,
I should take some photos of Legacy Village, a lifestyle center near me.
I've been there. I dislike the idea of driving to a faux town surrounded by a huge parking lot. There is no way to walk to the Laegacy Village development, even though it is close to the very walkable Shaker Heights and Cleveland Heights. It reminds me of two very large lifestyle centers in Richmond, VA, Stony Point Fashion Park and Short Pump Town Center. Essentially they are large isolated suburban malls, built to look like vintage town centers. Meanwhile the downtown retail district of Richmond has become a mess of empty, dilapidated storefronts. Forest City built Short Pump, but I am more impressed by their work out west. Victoria Gardens, one of their mixed use projects will create a "new downtown" for the city of Rancho Cucamonga. It is an attractive suburb that straddles the old US 66 (Foothills Boulevard) east of Los Angeles. The development will integrate large department stores, smaller shops, a cultural arts center, homes, schools, and other amenities within an actual walkable neighborhood.

A typical suburban lifestyle cnter is not in Buffalo's best interests.
 

BKM

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bizzo34 said:
Future highway construction was halted in the late 80s when many different parties made it clear that highways only encourage suburban development. My fear is that if the Syracuse area ever does boom -Destiny USA- then we will be another Austin, TX with gridlock. The environmental movement is very big in Syracuse because of SU and SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry. Both institutions literally control the long range planning for the area. This is one reason why the area isn't doing more progressive, pro-growth planning. Instead of planning the right way to develop the suburbs, the community is instead trying to make it come to a halt. (the 2010 Plan actually states that no new water or sewer line, or new roads will be built in Onondaga County after 2010. I still don't understand how they plan to pull that off without hurting the economy)

Thanks everyone for your suggestions and advice.
Given the lack of significant real population growth in the region (due to climate, economics, population growth trends, etc), I would find this ideology somewhat attractive. Planning for growth in a stagnant/slow growth community really means planning for more hollowing out and sprawl. Is there really a "need" to plan for "progressive growth," or are they unwilling to recognize that eternal growth may in fact be bad. Maybe this is too theoretical/idealistic for this thread.

Your supervisor would be amazed out here at the degree of design review California planners/munuicipalities undertake. We in California hassle over the smallest details of project design. But, you know what, sometimes I wonder if it really makes a difference. As others have posted, developers will propose what the market demands. If the overall patterns are bad (huge sprawling office parks near failing freeway systems, 60,000 square foot supermarkets with giant parking lots) the particular tree species chosen or the design of the entry monuments for the "Corporate Centers" or the brick patterns in the big box facade make little difference as to what "progressive planners" might want a city to become. If you pretty up sprawl, its still sprawl.
 

ablarc

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"5. Maybe our buildings should reflect our society. Since we want low prices above all else, convenient one-stop shopping, easy parking for our Lincoln Navigators, and nationally advertized retailers, and since we, as a people, care little about our built environment, why should government planners try to impose extra, expensive gimmicks on industrial sheds? The gimmicks really don't work very well, the vast majority of people don't care anyway, and they add costs to a business community that has no local pride, no local connections, and no roots.

Boy, that's quite a gloomy rant!"



Maybe not gloomy enough, BKM. What most planners do is about as useful as putting lipstick on a pig.
 

BKM

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ablarc said:
"5.


Maybe not gloomy enough, BKM. What most planners do is about as useful as putting lipstick on a pig.


But, at the same time, is it totally bad to try to work with developers to transform a project into "the BEST example of soul-deadening market -driven corporate park" possible? Our anal review DOES result in better projects, as horrible as the underlying realities of auto-driven suburbia are. I just look up the freeway at the town where I live, not work, where their design review appears to be nonexistent. And, our buildings do look better. Interestingly, my town of residence is a nicer town overall largely because the OLDER stuff is much better. But boy, their new buildings are just plain awful. I have a lot of respect for our current planners for trying to get the best out of what is a bad cultural-economic system.

On the other hand, there are scattered towns that get it much better. As Nerudite can attest, Davis, CA, a combination university town and affluent suburb, has a building stock not much different than the typical-on the whole. But, they provide for a much richer variety of housing types, there are integrated greenbelts everywhere with extensive bicycle paths, they support their downtown with difficult policy choices that preserve the downtown while maybe reducing the raw sales tax revenues that a suburban mega box store project would permit. Mixed use development is transorming the city center into an even nicer place. Planners and public policy helped bring this evolving situation about-but again, at a cost (the town is relatively tax poor). I rode my bike there this Saturday (60+ miles, yeah for me!) and it made me feel more positive about my profession.
 

boiker

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ablarc said:
Maybe not gloomy enough, BKM. What most planners do is about as useful as putting lipstick on a pig.
Maybe once the residents and council start noticing the lipstick, they'll start to wonder why, although nicer, the pig is still a pig. Then, [optimistic planner] the council will demand something other than a pig.[/optimistic planner].

I can't pay off all my debt at once. I've got to chip away at it, making it look better and better to me over time. Eventually it'll be gone and I'll feel that the my debt pig looks and functions a lot better as a big at zero.(with lipstick on it of course)
 

Dan

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An old post, I know.

Now that I'm living not too far from Syracuse, I noticed that sidewalks are completely absent from almost all of its suburban neighborhoods, and throughout much of the city as well. Another quirk - the vast majority of residential streets in the city and suburbs don't have curbs. I've never seen anything like it in a mid-sized metropolitan area. In the Buffalo area, curbed streets with sidewalks are the norm, outside of a few "genteel country character" towns like Clarence and Orchard Park.
 

Doohickie

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Another quirk - the vast majority of residential streets in the city and suburbs don't have curbs. I've never seen anything like it in a mid-sized metropolitan area. In the Buffalo area, curbed streets with sidewalks are the norm, outside of a few "genteel country character" towns like Clarence and Orchard Park.
Eh. Depends on the neighborhood. The area in Cheektowaga where I grew up? Sidewalks but no curbs. This neighborhood has a handful of homes built in the 1920s but mostly built out in the 1950s.

(Yes, re-resurrecting a zombie thread. I tripped across this while looking for something else.)
 

Dan

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Eh. Depends on the neighborhood. The area in Cheektowaga where I grew up? Sidewalks but no curbs. This neighborhood has a handful of homes built in the 1920s but mostly built out in the 1950s.
A little bit of Buffalo development history.

Buffalo was a hotbed of land speculation from the time it was founded to the Great Depression. Maps of the region from the mid-1800s to the 1940s showed grids of streets extending several miles past the outermost settled areas in the City of Buffalo. The act of building and buying a new house was a bit different in Buffalo, too. Other cities had speculative and production homebuilders, much like today, with speculative lot sales being less prevalent. In Buffalo, the opposite was true. It was more common to buy an empty lot, and contract with a builder or carpenter to build a house. Production builders became more prevalent after WW I, but speculative lot sales was still a very common practice.

Gangnagle Realty was a spec/production homebuilder who built many bungalows in the Kensington area in the 1920s. Like many Bufffalo-area homebuilders of the era, they also dabbled in speculative subdivisions. One of them was U-Crest. The location (far from the city, and not in Tonawanda or Amherst), and very basic improvements (curbless streets, with sidewalks) are reflected in the lot prices. From this ad in the Courier-Express from 1924: lots in Buffalo's Kensington neighborhood sold for $675 and $1,300 (about $10,000 and $15,000 today). A lot in U-Crest? $125 (about $1,900 in 2019).

1924_ucrest_lot.png

The people who built in U-Crest were mainly working class. They bought lots, and would often build small bungalows or "expandables" -- very small houses with provisions for future expansion. Some built a garage first, and lived in it while they saved money to build the main house. (If you ever go thorugh a neighborhood like U-Crest, and see a house set back much farther on a lot than everything else, it's one of the garage houses.)

Today, in most of the US, a developer can't record a subdivision and legally sell lots until they either complete all improvements -- streets, curbs, utilities, sudewalks, and so on -- or get a financial guarantee (usually a performance bond) to cover the cost of improvements. This wasn't the case before the 1940s. A developer could carve out lots, sell them, and then put in infrastructure later. Some developers put in full infrastructure -- streets, curbs, sidewalks, and utilities, which was a big selling point (more common in the City of Buffalo, Town of Tonawanda, and much of Amherst). Many others just graded streets, and paved them if you were lucky. Many made no improvements, period. There was also a patchwork quilt of improvement districts, where funding for finishing and maintaining subdivision streets would come from bond sales and tax revenues.

In the early years of the Great Depression, many subdividers went broke, and didn't finish promised improvements. The improvement districts didn't get the revenue to pay back bonds or make improvements, and they went bust. With lot owners stopping tax payments, many lots were repossessed by Erie County. (The county sold tens of thousands of once-repossessed residential lots to homebuilders between the late 1930s and 1960s, and today still owns hundreds.) Towns had to deal with an inventory of tens of thousands of vacant lots, many of them on streets with minimal or no improvements, and few contributing to the tax base. The Town of Tonawanda almost went bankrupt, and the Town of Amherst contemplated dissolution and annexation to the City of Buffalo, in large part due to the costs of speculative subdivision.

After the Depression, communities got around to improving those old subdivision streets. The level of improvements varied, depending on what was already there. If there was nothing there, or there were sidewalks and curbs, but dirt pavement, the towns usually made full improvements. (I'm not sure how they paid for it.) If there was a simple graded street, or just a paved street with a rural profile, they often weren't rebuilt with an urban profile. It was too costly to tear up the existing street just to rebuild it with a more finished appearance.

In U-Crest today, there's a mix of small 1920s-era housing stock, a few remaining garage houses, and some modest housing from the 1950s. There's also far more double lots than in nearby subdivisions with "finished" streets. I'm guessing many property owners bought and merged two neighboring lots in the 1920s, or bought a neighboring lot from Erie County at one of the tax auctions.

I'm also guessing that Cheektowaga probably had more lenient street improvement requirements before the early 1950s. On Huxley Drive, the curbs disappear on the Cheektowaga side of the Amherst town line. (Many of the curbless streets were platted before WWII.) The French city streets, from the late 1950s, all have curbs. Same thing with the aunt and uncle, snowbird, whateverwood, and 1950s lady streets.
 

Doohickie

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Interesting that they list lot sizes as 35 x 60. From my time (almost 40 years ago now) working in the town's engineering office as a summer intern, I remember the lots being 30 x 120 (or more commonly 60 x 120 which would be a double lot). For instance, the block shown measures out (per Google maps) as almost exactly (26) 30-foot frontage lots, or (25.5) 35-foot lots. There are 13 homes on that block, although they are not uniform 60-foot lots (i.e., a few on a single lot, a few on a triple lot, most on double lots).

Also interesting is that the U-Crest Fire District was established in 1924 which lines up with your chronology; the location of the firehall was a primary landmark of the neighborhood. As a kid in the 60s-70s I can remember they still ran some of the original 1920s vintage equipment. It was a popular neighborhood for member (volunteer) firefighters who would speed down our street at probably 50-60 mph with their blue lights when the horn sounded.
 
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Dan

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A bit more research on a break.

The first mention of U-Crest (Buffalo Express 3-9-1924)

bme 3-9-1924.jpg

The U-Crest FD opened on July 4, 1924. (Buffalo Courier 6-29-1924)

bc 6-29-1924.jpg

Gangnagel did build some houses in U-Crest. "A REAL DEVELOPMENT FOR THE WORKING MAN",

(Buffalo Courier 6-12-1924)

bc 6-12-1924.jpg

$2,950, or $44,260 today. That was really, really cheap for the era.

ben 5-16-1925.jpg

"The Beach Road". "The Eggert Road."

The interurban ROW became Oriole Place, Cherokee Drive, Claudette Court, and (hehehe) B&D Boulevard.

Here's an editorial cartoon I saw on one of the nearby pages.

road hog.jpg
 

Doohickie

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I had no idea I grew up a block over from a trolley line. Plus was there one on Genesee Street too?
 

Doohickie

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By the way, if you manage to dig up the original plat you'll see where a tributary of Scajaquada Creek went through my parents' yard before it was straightened and moved south of Cherokee Drive. In a pinch you can look up 1925 on historic aerials. Oh look- the streetcar line is there too!
 
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