I attended the public release of Blueprint Buffalo - Regional Strategies and Local Tools for Reclaiming Vacant Properties Thursday afternoon at the Larkin Building. The report contains a critical assessment of existing institutional and public policy initiatives. The study examines strategies used in other weak market cities that experience the abandonment and vacancy that is becoming increasingly more common place in post-industrial cities like our own.
Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC-Buffalo) and The National Vacant Properties Campaign have collaborated and presented a compelling set of documents that need to be critically read, examined and absorbed by the elected, anointed and community leaders in Buffalo and across the region. Both reports from the folks at LISC are available here:Blueprint Buffalo uses James Q. Wilson's work as a point of departure.
...if the first broken window in a building is not repaired, then people who like breaking windows will assume that no one cares about the building and more windows will be broken. Soon the building will have no windows...read the rest, 2/13/06 Wide Open...Only in the 'Hood.
Two houses on Woodlawn Avenue, opposite the new Performing Arts High School seem to illustrate Wilson's critique. Buffalo Fiscal Stability Board member and treasurer, Rev. Richard Stenhouse's organization owns the property on the right. The City of Buffalo, the one on the left. Pictures are from February 2006.
I first learned about the National Vacant Properties Campaign, in February 2005 shortly after I started blogging - right here. The Buffalo News first mentioned the emerging work presented this afternoon in October 2005, that I'd previously archived, right here. I followed that up with this post.
I've been fortunate to have had numerous discussions with Michael Clarke (LISC-Buffalo) during the past year and recently developed an on-line correspondence with Lisa Schamess, the project's writer/editor.
We have to get smarter at handling decline, fast. I've mentioned the emergency medical strategy of triage numerous times while thinking and writing about vacancy, most recently here - Heartbreak in the 'Hood. We can't save everything. We have to become smarter and more strategic in how we handle housing and land use in Buffalo. A comprehensive inventory would be a good first step towards getting our hands around the issue.
Thinking about the City as person - borrowing from the ancients who knew a thing about politics and the soul somewhere in Greece - if the patient is bleeding to death, doesn't make much sense treating an in grown toe-nail, does it? One of my conversations with Lisa recently included a humbling exchange between the personal and larger political (community wide) issues. Bottom line - that was echoed today - it's very easy to deny that abandonment and vacancy is happening. Dealing with these issues on an individual basis is hard, on a collective basis, perhaps impossible. Yet if we don't get smarter - like cutting our losses and begin land-banking - who will? It'll be more difficult next month and next year.
update...Blueprint Buffalo bibliography, hyper-linked - right here...