Dave and I just got back from a visit to Buffalo, another much-maligned city in upstate New York that has, nevertheless, managed to move forward in its thinking about sustainable urban development. While the addition of one more national chain in Eastwood has caused much furor, Buffalo’s Elmwood Village is just a step or three ahead of us. They’ve lived through the installation of a Kentucky Fried Chicken and its demise. Now take a look at what’s replacing it – photo taken directly from this article in Buffalo Rising:
Looks pretty much like the kind of buildings that used to be built in cities where people walked. There are many reasons for this design choice, and a quick search on “walkable” in your favorite search engine will provide them. But a quick review:
- Density (numbers of people living in the buildings above shops) creates walkability – the people want to walk to businesses nearby so businesses get built for them.
- Transparency from the street and sidewalk to the interior and also back out creates safety for the same reason the elevators are made of glass in malls: you can see what’s going on outside and people outside can see what’s happening inside.
- Natural surveillance from the upper floors where people live 24/7 keeps eyes on the street at just about all hours.
- Parking is located in such a way as to make quick getaways difficult, resulting in lower crime rates.
There’s a lot more to it than that, but let’s take a look at one more fascinating aspect of a densely populated urban community: real estate value. Buried in the comments of the above article is something we might want to pay attention to:
If you want to buy anything within .5 mile east or west of Elmwood you will pay through the nose.
Elmwood does not have a lot of the kind of gorgeous buildings we see in Skaneateles, Geneva or Canandaigua. It’s quite similar to Eastwood’s James Street business district, and I’d be willing to bet that it wasn’t all that long ago that it looked much the same, struggling to shift from the downward spiral to becoming the interesting and walkable destination district that makes it the most desirable neighborhood in Buffalo.
Now look at the home values. Two-family homes near this project, similar to the many we have within blocks of James, are going for $160,000 to $206,000 (according to zillow.com). By national standards that’s still wildly inexpensive. But it’s about 25-50% greater than what we have in Eastwood.
How does this kind of good development happen? In part, help from enlightened government. From yesterdays’ Buffalo Business First site (bolding mine):
Plans to demolish a vacant Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet along Elmwood Avenue and replace it with a mixed-use building have cleared another hurdle.
The Erie County Industrial Development Agency’s directors, Monday, unanimously approved an inducement package that will help the development trio of Orchard Park’s Krog Corp., Buffalo architect Karl Frizlen and lawyer Michael Ferdman construct a three story, nearly 20,000-square-foot building at 448 Elmwood Ave.
… The building will house a Coffee Culture outlet on its first floor and upscale apartments on the its second and third floors.
So how do we entice a developer like Krog Corp to build correctly on James and Midler?
All mayoral and Common Council candidates may now weigh in. :-)