Citizens Planning for Change in their Community

A group of engaged citizens of Western New York hold signs reading We matter, Heritage matters and culture matters.

Buffalo activist Gail Wells (second from left) is leading a citizen collaborative to catalyze and inform cultural and heritage tourism initiatives planned by the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor Commission. Photo courtesy of Gail Wells

Published February 1, 2015

Over 100 citizens across Western New York are better prepared to effect change in their communities thanks to a planning boot camp offered by the School of Architecture and Planning and its UB Regional Institute (UBRI). The inaugural class of the Citizen Planning School participated in workshops and networked with planning professionals and community leaders to advance their ideas from concept to action.

A select group of 17 “Champions for Change” received additional training and technical assistance through the program’s advanced track. Their proposals, some already in the action phase, include a fresh food market and small business incubator for Buffalo’s East Side, a public education campaign on waste prevention and reduction, a community organizing initiative in Niagara Falls, and historical signage and wayfinding in the Buffalo suburb of Williamsville. Paul Perez, already a graduate of the City of Buffalo’s Urban Fellows program for emerging leaders, is creating a rain garden and public park on Buffalo’s East Side, a project that will address storm-water runoff while beautifying and building hope in this distressed neighborhood. Of the Citizen Planning School, he says:

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The citizen academy is sponsored by the school through One Region Forward, a federallyfunded planning initiative for sustainable development in Erie and Niagara counties. Moving forward, the School of Architecture and Planning will integrate the annual program into its curriculum to more closely engage faculty and students. “Each year we do this, we’ll bring more champions into the mix, develop more idea-to-action projects and see this grow into a body of work that is consistent with the sustainability premises of One Region Forward,” said Dean Robert Shibley, director of UBRI. Leading the Citizen Planning School for UBRI are Bart Roberts (MUP ’07), research assistant professor, and Cristina Delgado (MUP ’14), project manager.