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Backtalk: Larkin district

Commentary by five Buffalo professionals who are involved in the city’s planning and built environment.

Nate Neuman, Urban Planner, city of Buffalo and US Army Reserve captain

Photo by kc kratt


Throughout this article, we have included commentary by five Buffalo professionals who are involved in the city’s planning and built environment: Kelly MacAlonie, director of the Capital Planning Group, University at Buffalo; Jessie Fisher, director, Preservation Buffalo Niagara; Mike Puma, project manager, Preservation Studios; Chris Hawley, planner, city of Buffalo Office of Strategic Planning; and Nate Neuman, urban planner, city of Buffalo and US Army Reserve captain.


Nate Neuman: I like how the residential units are closer to downtown, across the railroad tracks—that enables a greater connection with downtown. Before, there wasn’t enough fabric connecting the two and now you’ve jumped two full blocks closer.


Mike Puma: They are also interested in promoting a walkable, sustainable community with an emphasis on public transportation, including car sharing and bike sharing. It would be so easy for them to say “We’re here, we’re a juggernaut, we’ve got enough money to do as we please.” I don’t think it’s one hundred percent there yet, but it’s nice to see that initiative being taken, especially on such a large scale. 


KM: It was important for UB to be connected to the subway, to create that coatless environment uniting the South Campus with downtown.


Jessie Fisher: I think they’re still working on part of that and the jury’s a little bit out. That section of Main Street is going to have to be rebuilt, and how they do that will be very telling. And how will they work on the neighborhood issues they’re having? The impact they’re having in that neighborhood is potentially huge and how they handle that going forward is really going to be a test for them. They’re figuring out how to be a good neighbor, but they haven’t figured it out yet. 


MP: Right now it’s such a hard transition; you go from these one-and-a-half-story-cottages and suddenly you’re in a ten-story medical facility. There’s really no transition that bridges the gap between these massive structures and the small scale of the Fruit Belt. 


JF: There is that interesting intersection at High and Carleton where you have that old brick building and the deli that’s kitty-corner across the street. That, to me, could be this ground zero of making a true connection between the campus and the community. They meet there. You could bring the positive energy of the campus into the neighborhood and make the community feel welcome.


KM: What’s really missing now is food. It’s a desert there and I do hope that more people working down there will bring people living there and that will encourage grocery stores and similar amenities. 


JF: How do you ensure gentrification with justice; how do you make sure that people are moving into the surrounding neighborhoods without making property values and rents rise or displacing people? There are real opportunities to do some groundbreaking work in Buffalo with what happens when you have this established community that has issues and you have this huge amount of resources coming in. 

MP: Even the community garden near Roswell is completely fenced off. You can only get into it when it’s open. It’s well-tended, but there is a massive six-foot fence all around it.


KM: Well, we’re still in the middle of a construction zone; it’s still a work in progress.


JF: Making those spaces more available would help in embracing the surrounding community. And there are some nice buildings, including 204 High, and vacant land that could be used for infill, for amenities like stores and places for people to hang out. There is building stock around there that is just as nice as anywhere else in Buffalo and it’s just a case of investment and addressing issues like absentee landlords.



To read more about the Larkin (Hydraulic) District, click hereFor many more in-depth articles about Buffalo's transformation, pick up the current issue of Spree at a location near you. Or, get a subscription for yourself (or as a gift) today!


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