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Students offer suggestions to make downtown more walkable

Mike Desmond/WBFO

UB design students are offering a redesign of downtown Buffalo to make for a better pedestrian experience from Main and Court streets and over Lower Terrace to Canalside.

Teams of students were in the Buffalo Grand Hotel Monday night to show off their designs on what they might do to change the balance between cars and nervous pedestrians.

In the back of the room, Grand Hotel owner Harry Stinson was listening to the proposals and has been involved in several stages of the weeks the design students have spent studying the sidewalks and streets.

"It's not so much we're talking about the entrance to the hotel. It's the connection between the city center, with City Hall as the center, to Canalside," Stinson said.

"What we hear constantly from the guests at the hotel, 'Is it safe to walk down there? How do I get to the arena?' We tell them it's a ten-minute walk."

Student Yiming Zhu pointed to the many problems around the Erie County Holding Center. He believes more pedestrian-friendly infrastructure like street lights and trees are needed.

"It's really almost unwalkable," Zhu said

Student Tyson Morton said he learned from tours by his team how tough it can be as a pedestrian, especially getting around the convoluted traffic patterns and traffic signals of Niagara Square.

The students proposed more trees, better pedestrian safety, and more parks. That included suggestions that much of the parking lot right behind City Hall should be dug up and a park be put in its place.

Stinson is backing the effort, saying customers find the neighborhood to be a dreary walk.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.