Planners and politicians agree that a vibrant downtown is a measure of a region’s success and retail activity is a critical component. While Buffalo’s central business district is in a period of rebirth, many wonder if increased retail activity will follow. Progress in other markets illustrates that a sustainable trajectory of increasing demand will appeal to retailers. This sustainability is built on common principles: increase downtown population, develop a mix of complimentary uses, attract tourists, and improve accessibility.
Housing is a primary catalyst for downtown development and a priority for local government. The 9-5 workforce cannot sustain retail and commercial activity but a significant residential population creates the necessary balance. Mayor Byron Brown is committed to residential development with his administration’s stated goal of 1,300 new downtown housing units by 2018, leveraging the recommendations of the Buffalo Building Reuse Plan (BBRP) to achieve this effort.
Building these units alone won’t create demand. Residents will be attracted to a downtown with a variety of recreational, professional, and commercial development. BNE’s downtown development map highlights the diversity of current and proposed projects.
In addition to workers and residents, a vibrant downtown will attract tourists. Complementing the existing cultural amenities, HARBORcenter, Canalside and its future attractions such as Explore & More Children’s museum will draw millions of visitors to downtown Buffalo. To meet the demand of this development, hundreds of new hotel rooms are in the works.
Lastly, a successful downtown must be accessible. As the Cars Sharing Main St. project creeps towards Canalside, a Pearl St. reconfiguration is planned and streetscape improvements are developing for primary thoroughfares such as Ellicott, Genesee, and Chippewa Streets. Buffalo’s downtown accessibility will be markedly improved.
There is no guarantee of retail progress yet, but a sign of its imminent arrival is the arrival of at least 15 new downtown restaurants recently opened or in development.
While other components such as the regulatory environment, public safety, and surrounding neighborhoods all play a vital role in the downtown equation there isn’t enough space in this post to elaborate! However, rooted in these principles, with increased retail development on the horizon, Buffalo’s downtown future will leave visitors impressed and residents proud.
by Christopher Finn, Research Manager