Buffalo, a city in renaissance
I’ve been doing contract marketing and communications for D’Youville College, a short walk from the Allentown neighborhood where I used to live in the 90s in Buffalo. It’s a lovely city, a place I thoroughly enjoyed during my time there and would welcome the opportunity to move back should one arise. I’ve been back many times since living there and every year it keeps getting better and better.
There’s a rugged individualism, a blue-collar toughness ingrained in the people and spirit of Buffalo, New York. A sense of perseverance, grit, and determination has served the city through the best and worst of times until present day where the City of Good Neighbors is experiencing an explosion of business, youth, and good press.
Buffalo has been showing up on many top ten lists in the past couple years. Number one city for staycations (Thrillist), favorite big cities with small-town hearts (Travel and Leisure), most affordable city to live in (Forbes). Second best city to relocate (Best Places), third best food city in the world (Travel and Leisure), fifth best city to celebrate New Year’s Eve (Wallet Hub), a ninth-best city for college graduates (Value Penguin), tenth happiest city to work (Forbes) and so on.
The New York Times called Buffalo “a role model for resurgence,” Toronto Star “shocked and awed by the rebirth of Buffalo,” The Washington Post “new vitality [is] giving the once-gritty city wings,” The Village Voice to the young professionals “forget Brooklyn. It’s all about Buffalo now.” Katie Couric for Yahoo News even proclaimed Buffalo was “full of #Buffalolove” during a recent.
Buffalo’s growth rate for those 25-34 years of age is seventh in the U.S., close behind often more hyped cities such as Houston, Nashville, and Portland, Oregon. While many upstate New York cities have been hemorrhaging the creative class, Buffalo has been doing something most the rust belt has failed to do, not only keep young adults but attract them to the city and welcome them with jobs and a nightlife.
With a strong job market, year-over-year growth, low unemployment rate, and wages and incomes on the rise, Buffalo has reason to not only attract deserved attention, but itself to be optimistic. The recipe for success in keeping a metro area vital lies in specific areas such as low cost of living, providing well-paying opportunities, and giving those with disposable income a variety of ways to spend their hard-earned money, of which Buffalo has plenty to offer.
Along Lake Erie lies a beautiful renovated waterfront full or parks, museums, restaurants, breweries, even an ice skating rink. Various districts such as Elmwood, Allentown, and Chippewa feature boutiques, bookstores, swank bars, eateries, nightclubs plus feature live music for every person’s taste ranging from rock to jazz, and country. Speaking of tastes, Buffalo is a city for food lovers ranked internationally as a food destination, the Taste of Buffalo held every July is considered one of the largest in the world drawing over one million people
The list of sites, sounds, and places is long; world-class contemporary Albright-Knox Gallery, free summer Shakespeare performances in Delaware Park – designed by noted landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted who designed no less than six other parks around Buffalo, and some of the most famous houses built by Frank Lloyd Wright. Buffalo offers mainstays of any major city, from the Buffalo Zoo to the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, various acting and cultural groups, some affiliated with the six major institutions of higher learning in the city.
If one is into sports, minor league baseball’s Buffalo Bisons play in downtown, those wishing to see Major League Baseball need only travel an hour and a half to see the Toronto Blue Jays. The Buffalo Sabres are the city’s National Hockey League team, and who can forget the National Football League’s Buffalo Bills, with tentative plans on building a major athletic and sports village next to downtown along Lake Erie,
The backbone to much of Buffalo’s success is the attractive retro feeling of a city steeped in history. In many ways, previous Buffalo’s financial failings have helped it succeed today. During the 80s and 90s, it was so cash-strapped during a period where other cities were able to tear down old large brick factories built to stand the test of time, Buffalo’s historic buildings were saved.
Buffalo: Old Money Infused with New Money
A century ago Buffalo had more millionaires per capita than any other city in the United States as one of the largest transportation and manufacturing cities in North America. When railroads and water withered as the major arteries for moving goods and materials and as steel, grain, textiles, automotive, and production went elsewhere, much of the wealth accumulated along with the families who acquired it stayed in the area.
Ralph Wilson, the previous owner of the Buffalo Bills, set up a $1-Billion dollar foundation. Jeffrey Gundlach gave $42.5 million to The Albright-Knox Gallery. The University of Buffalo received two individual donations totaling over $70 million within the past five years. A million here and a million there has been given by individuals to help jumpstart community centers, parks, cultural and entertainment areas in the past two years.
Families with long-held net worth have provided the backbone of private funding helping develop downtown, the waterfront, and in pockets of the city. Individual donors who’ve lived through the good, bad, and now highly optimistic times for the City of Buffalo have created opportunities giving in amounts that pale almost every city in Upstate New York.
The infusion of both old and new money has helped the Buffalo renaissance both get off the ground and continue at a rapid pace. It’s one factor that separates Buffalo’s success story over cities like Syracuse, Rochester, Utica, Binghamton, or Albany, all were doing well economically a century ago, never none had the level of personal wealth on a scale Buffalo had in the past.”
Buffalo has had an infusion of millions in private and public money helping fund downtown projects. Beautiful old brick warehouses and the one rundown waterfront have been renovated into prime loft living spaces, breweries, cafes, and hosting now hundreds of small businesses making Buffalo one of the few upstate cities that is buzzing with blocks of life after business hours.
Business-wise the once blue collar Buffalo has attracted high-tech, healthcare, and white-collar industries with businesses hiring thousands of employees to live and work downtown. Tesla and Panasonic spent over a $250 million on a solar panel factory expected to be up and running in Spring 2017 employing nearly 1,500 in the area.
The John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital and University at Buffalo’s Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Science have added to Buffalo’s new skyline, the first new buildings in almost a half-century. Both campuses employ over 15,000 people total and are surrounded by construction cranes raising new shiny glass buildings with floors already leased to corporations and businesses, all relocating into the heart of Buffalo, bringing hundreds of new jobs inside the city.
If luck can be defined by being in the right place at the right time and knowing the right thing to do, Buffalo is lucky. More than that, Buffalo as it did in the past has the location, history, and people with follow through. Buffalo’s DIY spirit has helped create an upward spiral in both mindset and economically. If one hasn’t visited in the past decade, they may be surprised at all Buffalo has to offer, why it’s becoming one of the most desirable cities to live in the country.
It’s certainly a city where I desire to move, live, and contribute to along with my family. Should the stars align, that just might happen.