Buffalo native gives back to city’s distressed neighborhoods
Arthur Hall Jr. (MUP ’04, BAED ’02) has seen his life come full circle. The urban planner recently returned to Buffalo as a community planner for the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency, putting Hall face-to-face with the same challenges he experienced first-hand growing up on the City’s East Side.
This time, however, he is in a position to do something about it.
Hall recognized at a young age that he lived in a supportive albeit segregated community when he and schoolmates from South Buffalo couldn’t visit each other’s homes without racial pushback. Experiences such as this one influenced Art’s decision to pursue a career in public service.
Art’s first exposure to the field came in 1998, as a volunteer with Buffalo’s Weed and Seed program, which aligns community-based crime-prevention program directed at the city’s most violent neighborhoods. But his career path in community service came by way of chance, after he stumbled upon UB’s environmental design program a er an unsatisfying stint as a computer science major. “That was it — I had found my inspiration.”
Hall headed south after graduation for a job as a comprehensive planner with the City of Orlando. Over the course of 10 years, his visits home became increasingly filled with chatter about the city’s renaissance. Most importantly attitudes were changing. “People used to say, ‘oh, there’s nothing in Buffalo. I’m getting out of here.’ Now [they say], ‘you haven’t seen the half of it!’”
At BURA, Hall is leading preservation efforts in the historic African American Heritage Corridor on Michigan Avenue and is part of the city’s strategic planning team for the Fruit Belt, a predominantly black neighborhood bordering the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. Hall’s contributions include the development of policies to prevent displacement and gentrification, as well as ensuring that current residents have access to the services and opportunities the Medical Campus brings to the neighborhood.
As for his new job with BURA, he says, "There was nothing more motivating and more invoking than to come home and be a part of this renaissance."