Release Date: August 19, 2016
BUFFALO, N.Y. — A master plan that lays the groundwork to turn around one of Buffalo’s most distressed neighborhoods has been honored with an international urban design award.
Bailey Green II — a master plan for a 33-acre zone around Bailey Avenue and Genesee Street on Buffalo’s East Side — earned second place in the 2016 International Making Cities Livable (IMCL) design competition.
The neighborhood blueprint has its origins in a first-phase plan conceived by University at Buffalo architecture and urban planning students under the direction of professor Hiro Hata and in partnership with Harmac Medical Products, a major employer in the area.
The international contract manufacturer of single-use medical devices initiated the Bailey Green effort in 2008 and had cultivated partnerships with the City of Buffalo and community organizations when it approached UB in 2014 to develop the master plan.
Over the past two years the plan has moved quickly from concept to action, with Harmac, Hata’s team, the City of Buffalo and a growing list of project partners employing “tactical urbanism” to ready strategic parcels for development, create more fine-grained designs and bring in capital.
Indeed, Bailey Green is well into implementation. Project partner Habitat for Humanity is breaking ground on five new builds. Heart of the City Neighborhoods is planning the development of three four-unit apartments in the neighborhood. Groundwork Gardens has created an urban garden to grow and provide fresh produce to a neighborhood where access to healthy food is scarce.
Other future plans include working with local food purveyor Urban Fruits and Veggies to build multiple hydroponic greenhouses, a fruit tree orchard, community garden and a street-level café and green market with upper-level apartments on East Ferry Street. Also envisioned for Bailey Green is a central park and outdoor recreation area.
Founded on the urban design principles of walkability, accessibility, healthy living and pedestrian-scale development, the Bailey Green plan outlines a mix of affordable housing, retail, recreation, community gardens, green infrastructure and streetscape improvements.
Formed with extensive community input, its goal is to re-knit an urban fabric frayed by decades of decline and concentrated poverty and blight. The Bailey-Genesee area’s vacancy rate of 60 percent is among the city’s highest.
“It’s a humble project” says Hata, referring to the plan’s scale and scope in relation to the IMCL competition’s other winners – a first-place plan for a refugee camp in Greece and, tying for second, plans for an entire city in China.
“[The jury] liked the dynamics of our plan’s design, its focus on caring for community and empowering residents,” added Hata, who received the award on behalf of the UB-Harmac team at the IMCL conference in Rome, Italy, earlier this summer.
According to the IMCL Council, a global network of individuals and cities dedicated to making cities and communities more livable, the design competition honors projects that “respect the fundamental DNA of the city, including the cultural and physical history… [and that are] socially as well as ecologically sustainable.” Projects were required to have a real client, an actual site and an expectation that the project will be built.
Hata, an urban designer and faculty member in both architecture and urban planning, says Harmac’s investment in the neighborhood and the coalition of community partners has been a significant factor behind the plan’s mobilization.
Moreover, two of Hata’s students have remained engaged in the master planning process since 2014: Vivek Thanumalayan and Jie Dai, both 2015 graduates of the master of urban planning program. Hata’s work on the project continues through an independent studio affiliated with the UB Regional Institute.
“It’s an extension of our employee-centric culture and in support of our mission to change the lives of patients, employees and the communities in which we work,” says Harmac president and CEO John Somers, whose company’s headquarters on Bailey Avenue employs 400, many who live in the local area.
“The master plan created by UB and the School of Architecture and Planning for the Bailey Green initiative has really helped to take our vision and show us the potential of what this neighborhood can be,” Somers adds.
Indicative of the growing energy around Buffalo’s East Side, the scope of the plan continues to grow. Last year, Harmac donated an historic 19th century building to UB architect-artist Dennis Maher, who, in partnership with the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, will turn the site into a training center for woodworking and architectural craft for city residents.
New businesses to the area will be advised by the master plan’s design guidelines, which include street-front buildings with parking in the rear and green infrastructure such as new paths cutting in the middle of long blocks, rain gardens and planting beds. Existing businesses in prominent corner or gateway locations will be encouraged to make similar enhancements.