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One Region Forward Asks Citizens to Chart a Course for a More Sustainable Buffalo Niagara

oneregionforward

Published October 30, 2013

This November, citizens in Erie and Niagara Counties will have a chance to share their views on how our region can grow more sustainably over the next 40 years by participating in a series of “Community Congress” public workshops.

Through highly interactive, hands-on workshops, participants across the region will work together to map where and how Buffalo Niagara should invest in land use, development, housing and transportation.

The Community Congresses are sponsored by One Region Forward, a community-based planning effort funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to create a federally-recognized Regional Plan for Sustainable Development. The effort is led by a broad consortium of public, not-for-profit and private entities in the region, with the School of Architecture and Planning’s UB Regional Institute/Urban Design Project providing research and planning support.

Five events are scheduled around the Buffalo Niagara region from Nov. 12-16. View a detailed schedule and register for a workshop.

The Community Congress workshops will first give the public the chance to learn about how Buffalo Niagara might look 40 years from now if today’s trends continue in how we use our land, develop our neighborhoods, commute to work or grow and consume our food.

Participants will then create alternative development scenarios for the region – for instance, mapping the neighborhoods where housing investment is needed most, or identifying more sustainable land use strategies. These scenarios will then be assessed for their impact on the region’s economy, environment and communities.   

photovoices

One Region Forward has closely engaged citizens in envisioning a stronger, more sustainable future for the region. For instance, its "PhotoVoices" initiative invites community members to share photos or videos of places they want to change or keep for future generations. By mapping the images across Buffalo Niagara, the social media initiative aims to reflect the collective vision of the region.

The planning sessions, the effort’s second round of Community Congresses, are one of many forums One Region Forward has convened to engage citizens in building a plan for sustainable development in the Buffalo Niagara region.

One Region Forward, which combines research and public engagement with planning and action, has also mobilized working teams around its five key themes: land use, transportation, housing and neighborhoods, climate action and food access. These teams of regional experts and private citizens are building the nuts and bolts of the plan – setting goals, developing implementation strategies and fine-tuning performance metrics.

Two of those work groups are being led by faculty in the School of Architecture and Planning. Samina Raja, associate professor of urban and regional planning, is guiding the Food Access and Justice Working Team in generating proposals to protect farmland, support enterprises that produce and process food, and improve connections between farm and market. Assistant Professor Himanshu Grover and Professor Emerita Lynda Schneekloth are facilitating the Climate Change Action team, to create planning tools that help the region reduce carbon emissions and prepare for the impacts of drought, changing lake levels and severe weather.

Over the past year, One Region Forward’s “Regional Sustainability Team” – led by the UB Regional Institute/Urban Design Project – has built a series of research and technical tools on sustainability through its “Sustainability 101” initiative. The team has also traversed the region, participating in dozens of community events to build awareness of the effort and collect public input. One Region Forward will launch a Citizen Planning School, an educational program for citizens and community leaders, in spring 2014.

One Region Forward, which builds on and aligns with related planning efforts in Buffalo Niagara, engages dozens of regional partners, including the Greater Buffalo-Niagara Regional Transportation Council, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, Erie and Niagara Counties, the City of Buffalo and the City of Niagara Falls (view full list of partners).

One Region Forward will reconvene the Community Congress in spring 2014 and target completion of the final plan for early 2015.