Pittsburgh is experiencing some of the same urban issues as Buffalo. There are people working and living in downtown Pittsburgh, but the retail climate is still suffering. The City of Pittsburgh has come up with a plan to bring public and private interests together to introduce a strategy to fix the problem. In a recent article in The Atlantic Cities, the plan was laid out. Take three downtown corridors and completely upgrade and urbanize them via a public-private partnership.
Without a public-private partnership, the plan would probably not work, and ultimately that could be the downfall for an initiative of this type in a city such as Buffalo unless local developers and building owners with deep pockets were interested in the partnership. The respective roles would require The City to update the infrastructure, making the streets and the sidewalks progressive and user-friendly. Create wayfinding signage, dedicated bike lanes, infill, security, crosswalks, public art, lighting, and tree beds with (flowering) trees, etc. Also identify aesthetic fixes for unsightly parking structures and ways to camouflage parking lots. Make sure that the target street has enough retail opportunities to “take hold”. The City’s role in this partnership is “the carrot”. In exchange, the building owners, developers (retail partners if possible) would be on the hook to clean up storefront facades, introduce “pop up” shops, help to create a marketing campaign, and take advantage of matching money grants for additional storefront fixes*.
In essence the plan sees a concentrated effort to revitalize prime corridors. One could say that Buffalo is already doing this by returning cars to Main Street. That is an important project, but The City should start to identify connector corridors that will bridge Main Street to other districts, and the waterfront (not just via Main Street).
At the same time there are existing commercial districts in Buffalo that could also use some love from The City, such as Allentown. Allen Street desperately needs infrastructure improvements – the street is one big pothole!
You would think that with all of the money that The City is putting into Main Street, that it would try to work with the Main Place Mall in order to get a new facade, or awnings, or anything going with that frontage along the street.
*Some of these ideas were taken from the Pittsburgh initiative and others I added from successful Main Street Programs. Thanks to Lorne Opler for pointing out the article in The Atlantic Cities.