VOLUME 33, NUMBER 23 THURSDAY, April 4, 2002

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Conference to tackle local waterfront issues
Urban Design Project involved in two Buffalo revitalization projects

Contributing Editor

For decades, members of the Western New York community and environmental organizations have lobbied to produce changes to the Buffalo waterfront, calling it the primary locus of economic development in Erie County and its most precious environmental asset, intrinsic to the identity of the region.

Among the longest-standing and insistent public demands have been for improved public access to the waterfront and removal of the environmental constraints—from intrusive infrastructure to environmental contaminants and sewage overflows—that inhibit its full use.

On Saturday, the Urban Design Project (UDP) in the School of Architecture and Planning will co-sponsor a conference that will address the state of the waterfront and how well public demand for change is being addressed.

"State of the Waters: A Conference on Buffalo's Lakes, Rivers and Streams" will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Buffalo Convention Center. Registration is $30, which will include breakfast and lunch. Co-sponsors are the City of Buffalo Waterfront Corridor Initiative, to which the Urban Design Project is a consultant, and the Friends of the Buffalo Niagara Rivers.

The program will feature discussions of projects now under way to develop public access to Buffalo's waterfront and look at how ongoing ecological problems like contamination and loss of habitat undermine those efforts.

It also will highlight two projects that were initiated to insure that Buffalo's waterfront future is a bright one—the City of Buffalo Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan and its Waterfront Corridor Initiative.

Conference organizers point out that both projects will have a significant impact on two countries, seven of Buffalo's nine council districts, 30 percent of the city's land mass, nearly 25 percent of its population, several low-income and minority neighborhoods and two rivers of enormous concern to the future of the region—the Niagara and Buffalo rivers.

The UDP, headed by Robert Shibley, professor of urban design, is devoted to education, service and research in pursuit of a critical practice of urban design. It brings students and faculty together with local government, community-based organizations and individual citizens to make stronger communities.

One of the UDP's current research-action projects is "Rethinking the Niagara Frontier," a bi-national effort in partnership with the Waterfront Regeneration Trust to stimulate discussion and action on heritage development in the region that spans the Niagara River and stretches from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie.

The City of Buffalo Waterfront Corridor Initiative, to which the UDP is a consultant, was created to extend direct access to the waterfront from Riverside to South Buffalo; revitalize waterfront neighborhoods and connect them to the water; protect and repair the health of the water, land, and wildlife along the waterfront, and to enhance the international gateway at and around the Peace Bridge.

Friends of the Buffalo Niagara Rivers, whose president is Lynda Schneekloth, UB professor of architecture, is a not-for-profit regional river advocacy organization whose goals are to restore the ecological health of the Buffalo-Niagara River systems, improve public access to the rivers, express and celebrate the cultural and historic fabric of the area, support sustainable development of the WNY economy and encourage community awareness, "ownership" and stewardship of the rivers.