Published May 28, 2014
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has cited the University at Buffalo as a national best practice for its community outreach and development efforts in downtown Buffalo and its surrounding neighborhoods.
Among the model programs highlighted by HUD were several planning efforts being led by the School of Architecture and Planning and its Center for Urban Studies, UB Regional Institute and Urban Design Project.
“UB is leading redevelopment efforts in distressed neighborhoods near downtown Buffalo, spurring the growth of the regional economy and building neighborhood and regional capacity,” notes an article that appears on HUD USER, an informational website for housing and community development researchers, academics, policymakers and the public published by HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research.
The article may be read at: http://www.huduser.org/portal/bestpractices/study_03242014_1.html.
HUD cites the UB 2020 initiative and the university's plan to move its School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences downtown as the backbone for UB’s community impact, noting that UB is “lending its expertise to local government and empowering residents to shape their communities from the neighborhood to the regional level.”
The School of Architecture and Planning's planning and development efforts from the neighborhood to regional level have contributed significantly to the physical and socioeconomic revitalization of downtown and Buffalo Niagara overall, according to the article.
The Center for Urban Studies is a research and community development center at the School of Architecture and Planning that focuses its work on distressed urban neighborhoods. Led by Henry Louis Taylor, Jr., professor of urban and regional planning, the center's faculty, staff and students work directly in the community, broadly engaging residents and stakeholders from schools to health care providers in the neighborhood planning process.
The article references the center's work with the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority to develop the Perry Choice Neighborhood redevelopment plan. The HUD-funded planning effort seeks to link physical improvements to the distressed community just south of downtown with improved access to quality education, job training, health services and transportation.
The center also partners with the Buffalo Public Schools to improve the quality of education. Its work with the Futures Academy middle school in the Fruit Belt neighborhood employs a "community as classroom" approach that directly engages students in community development efforts. From reclaiming vacant lots as community gardens to designing a playground, the initiative empowers students as agents of change in their own community.
The article also notes that UB and the School of Architecture and Planning have helped shape the direction of the city and the region through community-based plans for its downtown, waterfront and parks system, efforts led by Dean Robert G. Shibley and the Urban Design Project, which he founded at the School of Architecture and Planning in 1990.
The UB Regional Institute, a policy and planning center that recently aligned with the Urban Design Project, is now playing a major role in economic development planning for the entire region in partnership with the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council. The institute has provided community engagement, research and planning support for the region's award-winning five-year economic plan, as well as an investment plan related to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's "Buffalo Billion" committment.
The institute's leadership of One Region Forward, a collaborative effort to develop a plan for sustainable regional development, will "lead to better policy decisions" for the region by providing research and technical assistance to local governments on issues of housing, transportation and food security, according to the article.
Shibley says these efforts are all hallmarks of the School of Architecture and Planning's engagement of Buffalo Niagara as a "regional classroom, our site of investigation."
The article also notes the work of UB’s Office of Community Relations to engage residents in two-way communication and provide information about UB’s programs and jobs that will be created by the university’s expansion downtown. Additional UB efforts cited by the article include:
Also involved is UB’s Office of the Vice Provost for Educational Collaboration and Engagement, which focuses on pathways to education, training and employment, including:
“Moving forward, UB continues to serve Buffalo’s neighborhoods, the city at large and the region — not only by aligning the university’s expansion with the area’s development needs, but also by ensuring that residents have the ability to effect positive change,” the HUD article notes.