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Designing a new downtown the focus of five-day Buffalo conference

Mike Desmond

Cities and their downtowns will be 10 years older in 2030, but also very different, as technology changes so many things, including mobility. That is being discussed during the five day conference of the Congress for the New Urbanism in Buffalo this week.

"The Future of Mobility: Remaking Buffalo for the 21st Century" kicked off in the Seneca One tower. The conference is here looking at mobility and how that is reflected in remaking Buffalo this century, as developer Doug Jamal is trying to do with his Seneca One tower.

Congress President Lynn Richards said the well-educated will want to live downtown and not anywhere else.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
Congress for the New Urbanism President Lynn Richards kicks off the five-day conference.

"This isn't about capturing your vision and kind of tweaking it into a beautiful urban design," Richards said. "This is about responding in a real-world setting of: How do we design an inclusive place?. How do we design it where everybody feels welcome and just not as lip service?"

Also among the first-night speakers and panelists was David Dixon, vice president of planning, urban design and urban places for Stantec, a design and consulting agency. Dixon said downtowns are cool and attracting the well-educated, but not necessarily the increasingly well-paid.

"We are building our own greater equity crisis and we can't stop. We have to be competitive," Dixon said. "Therefore, what we have got to do - and this is what IDA is telling its members - is invest the economic value that is being created in our downtowns in a much more robust equity generation. That's not just affordable housing but, obviously, workforce training and small business engagement."

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said he buys into that, completely.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
The crowd inside Seneca One.

"Equity is core and key to everything that I have been talking about as mayor of the City of Buffalo," he said. "We have focused on diversity, equity and inclusion, and we will be looking at strategies and solutions for creative placemaking for the future of mobility that is equitable and benefits every single resident."

With that, Brown wants a better designed city, with better transportation. That includes dealing with Dixon's comments that private cars are gradually going away, to be replaced by buildings on current parking lots and parking ramps bumper to bumper. That will be necessary because cars will park themselves, freeing up space for more cars and fewer parking lots.

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.
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