Published December 10, 2012
Darren cotton was an undergraduate student living in an apartment on Lisbon Avenue and was frustrated by his landlord’s slow property upkeep. He decided to take matters into his own hands – but first he had to find the tools to put into those hands.
His search laid the groundwork for the University Heights Tool Library, a lending place for home-improvement and gardening tools. Cotton, now an MUP graduate and staff member of the school's UB Regional Institute, began researching grassroots community development efforts and the idea of tool libraries surfaced. At the time, PUSH Buffalo and Buffalo ReUse were also teaming up to create the Buffalo Tool Library on the city’s East and West sides.
The University Heights Tool Library has since joined that local network and opened to the community in May 2011 on Main Street in University Heights, right in Cotton's neighborhood. In its first year and a half of operation, it has attracted over 150 members and evolved into a catalyst for civic engagement and neighborhood reinvestment. In addition to loaning everything from extension cords to circular saws, the tool library is a frequent community gathering spot where ideas are exchanged and small-scale revitalization projects are planned.
Just last spring the Tool Library moved into a new location at 5 West Norhrup Place, an old movie theater just off Main Street that Cotton and his crew of community volunteers are working to restore.
"By leveraging this low-cost, high-impact project, people can reclaim and redevelop their neighborhood one tool at a time,” says Cotton.