Executive Summary

The Buffalo Comprehensive Plan was created to guide Buffalo to achieve a shared community vision of our future. We intend to build a city that is a prosperous, green regional center providing livable communities for all its citizens. It will have a thriving, progressive economy with leading edge companies; inclusive community life and harmonious social relations; prestigious medical, academic, and public institutions; and fully restored and enhanced natural, cultural, and built heritage.

The more quantifiable goal of the Comprehensive Plan is to reverse Buffalo’s long-term decline in population, employment and the quality of the physical environment through coordinated and strategic investments in economic development, neighborhood revitalization, and the infrastructure of the city, through the implementation of smart growth principles.

Buffalo is a city with its own needs, strengths, values and identity. It needs a plan of its own. But this plan also needs to respond to the larger regional context – one in which it is the center of an important metropolitan region, but also part of a much larger bi-national conurbation stretching from Toronto to Rochester around the “Golden Horseshoe.”

The analysis of current conditions that undergirds this plan shows that Buffalo faces great challenges: the long-term decline in population and jobs, deterioration in housing and neighborhoods, public schools under stress, great environmental damage to repair, and huge investments to make. The same analysis also shows what great assets we possess: great institutions of higher learning, good housing and strong neighborhoods, an extraordinary legacy of historic architecture, city planning and parks, a robust physical infrastructure, and much more.

Creation of this plan was guided by four key principles: Buffalo’s future development should be sustain-able, integrating economic, environmental and social concerns, to make sure we preserve the opportunities of succeeding generations to live a good life. Physical development should follow the patterns of smart growth that can help conserve our resources and make lively cities. We must “fix the basics” of the city to move forward. And we should always “build on our great assets.”

From the analysis of conditions and these key principles were derived seven policies for guiding our in-vestments. Buffalo must:

  1. Deliver quality public services, applying best management practices, emerging technology and other cost cutting measures, and, where necessary relocating service delivery to other agencies more appropriate and better supported to deliver them.

  2. Maintain public infrastructure, continuing and expanding work to monitor and manage streets, sewers, water and public buildings so that appropriate investments can be made on a timely basis and disposition of unneeded elements of these systems can be made.

  3. Transform Buffalo’s economy, hastening the city’s transition to a modern mixed economy while working to maintain the base of manufacturing jobs, rationalizing the delivery of economic development services, investing in transportation, redeveloping land for economic expansion, leveraging the special regional role of Downtown, and developing local and regional heritage to attract skilled workers, capital and tourists.

  4. Reconstruct the schools, providing the physical means to educate a high-quality workforce for the economy of the future, giving confidence to families with children to live in the city, and providing an element in a coordinated investment strategy to redevelop Buffalo’s neighborhoods.

  5. Rebuild neighborhoods, working with citizens to produce detailed neighborhood plans, striving to focus and coordinate investments for the greatest impact on physical conditions and investment environment, linking neighborhood development initiatives to jobs creation projects, and using demolition, rehabilitation and new construction to manage the housing stock to meet needs of a population expected to shrink further but then grow again.

  6. Restore Olmsted, Ellicott and the waterfront, reinvesting in the unique physical structure of the city, restoring and expanding Frederick Law Olmsted’s extraordinary system of parks and parkways, repairing and building on the Ellicott grid and radial system, and linking both to a greener and more accessible waterfront.

  7. Protect and restore the urban fabric, instituting an Environmental Management System to safeguard the natural environment of the city, implementing a Community Preservation Plan to identify, protect and restore Buffalo’s historic architecture, and adopting urban and regional design guidelines to make sure that newly built elements of the city are as good as the old.

These policies will be implemented in part through adoption of a new land use concept for the city and a revised Zoning Ordinance. The land use concept identifies three major corridors for focused investments in Buffalo’s emerging mixed economy: a Tonawanda-waterfront corridor; a South Buffalo-East Side rail corridor; and a Main Street-Downtown corridor.

Most importantly, the plan will be linked to the City’s Capital Improvement Program, which prioritizes and schedules all capital investments in Buffalo – those by the City and its agencies, as well as those by others at the County, State and federal levels. This program includes investments in water, sewer and streets infrastructure; public transit; land redevelopment and brownfields clean-up; economic development initiatives; new and rehabilitated housing; restoration of Buffalo’s Olmsted and other parks; redevelopment of Ellicott plan radials; and more.

This investment program was guided by a selected development scenario entitled “Integrated Regional Center.” This scenario strikes a balance between two other scenarios considered, one which emphasized large scale economic development initiatives, a second that focused on fine-grained revitalization of housing and neighborhoods. The chosen scenario says Buffalo must do both.However, the reality of the Comprehensive Plan is clear: even after the City of Buffalo does everything it can to reform its operations and invests all the capital it has available, from municipal or other sources, the total is still insufficient to effect the desired transformation of the city. It is not enough to meet the goal of reversing the decline in population, employment and physical environment.

Therefore, the Comprehensive Plan proposes a special Buffalo Development Program which combines the Capital Improvement Program constructed out of already available funds with an additional $35 million per year from other sources. Over the ten-year course of the program an additional $350 million would be invested.

The Buffalo Comprehensive Plan is the one plan for the City of Buffalo. It will provide a framework for all other planning initiatives in the city including The Queen City Hub: A Strategic Regional Action Plan for Downtown; the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program; the Olmsted Parks Restoration and Management Plan; the Community Preservation Plan; Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus Master Plan; and all the neighborhood plans created under the auspices of the Good Neighbors Planning Alliance.

With its review and adoption by the Common Council, Buffalo now has, perhaps for the first time ever, a truly comprehensive and authoritative plan to guide investments in the future of the city. This will be a powerful tool to stimulate growth, shape development, and measure our progress toward meeting our goal.

In the immediate future, much work needs to be done, including completion of component plans, creation of key implementing ordinances, reorganization of city and regional economic development services, and most of all, negotiation of the special Buffalo Development Program with our County, State and federal partners.

The City of Buffalo is in financial crisis. Its leaders, working under the supervision of the Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority, have many difficult matters to attend to right now. But it is also important to look to our future in a longer view. What Buffalo must do in the short term to survive and what it must do in the longer-term to prosper need to be closely related to one another. They must be part of the same plan. As such, creation of this Comprehensive Plan is central to the work of leading Buffalo's recovery. There is no time to waste in its implementation.