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UB students present plans for Old First Ward future

OFW Community Development Coordinator Matthew Fisher welcomes UB Students Nate Aldrich, Matthew Shofett, Tyler Kuss, and Dr. Hiro Hata of the UB School of Architecture as they present plans for the area.

BY: Catherine Miller | February 24, 2014

SOUTH BUFFALO - The Old First Ward Community Center’s monthly community meeting was held at the Larkin Building on Exchange Street on Feb 18 for a special presentation.

Students from the University of Buffalo presented their plans for retrofitting local greenway right-of-ways into a series of movement systems that would potentially link the Larkin District with the Old First Ward, Valley, Canalside, and the Buffalo River. Some of the plans continued the movement systems into the downtown and Broadway Market areas.

Students from UB’s School of Architecture and Center for Urban Planning completed a three month study and planning period. They presented their findings to community activists, businessmen, local politicians and concerned citizens.

“I am here because I would like to see them focus on the neighborhoods,” stated Buffalo City Court Judge Patrick M. Carney, who presides over housing court issues and has been a longtime community advocate, “Some of the houses need to be restructured, and that needs to be considered. We need to bring families and children back to the area.”

While the plans are still in their most preliminary stages, some of the most notable names in the area took notice of the presentation event. Howard Zemsky, known for his ever-growing real estate portfolio in the Larkin area, was in attendance as was James Sandoro, founder and executive director of the Pierce Arrow Museum, located at 263 Michigan Avenue. Both men have a vested interest in the way the greenway and pathway plans unfold in the area.

UB students involved in the study were divided into groups for their urban planning projects and each group presented their unit’s end result.

Some of the plans included walkways and parkways that would join the areas allowing for safer bike routes and pedestrian pathways. Others also included trolley cars that would traverse the areas, providing easy access between the neighborhoods for residents.

Laura Kelly, executive director of the Old First Ward Community Center and Peg Overdorf, executive director of the Valley Center were in attendance and seemed pleased with the overall presentation, although they were interested in keeping the focus on the positives that have already been put in place in their regions.

The UB students assured the audience that noted recently improved areas such as Mutual Front Park, which is home to a popular kayaking launch area, and Red Jacket River Front Park at the foot of Smith Street which is the starting line for the Buffalo Riverfest boat race, would maintain their existence. The parts of the area that are presently assets would remain what the students referred to as “the jewels in the crown of the project”.

UB Professor Hiro Hata oversaw the students’ research and planned presentations. Professor Hata is a registered architect holding a post-professional degree in urban design from Harvard University and is co-author of “Redeveloping Inner-city Urban Housing: Exploration of Potential in Buffalo, NY”.

The Old First Ward Community Block Group meetings are held the third Tuesday of each month at 6 pm. The meetings are customarily held at the Old First Ward Community Center, 62 Republic St. Occasional changes in location can be found on the OFW Facebook page or by calling 856-8613.

Organized by Executive Director Laura Kelly and Community Development Coordinator Matthew Fisher, the meetings are a great way to voice your ideas and concerns for the neighborhood.

The next meeting will be held on March 18 at 6 pm. All local residents and business owners are welcome to attend.

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