This study demonstrated that a connection existed between poor health and neighborhood conditions. In this study a social determinants of health model was used to study the role played by socioeconomic and neighborhood factors. The study concluded that the only authentic way to resolve the health issues facing blacks and Latinos to redevelop the neighborhoods in which they live and the strengthen the neighborhood social superstructure. This will require turning the churches into health care outreach centers for the Greater Buffalo United Affordable Healthcare Network and creating linkages between the churches and the residents in the surrounding neighborhoods. Only through a process of redeveloping the neighborhoods and organizing the residents will it be possible to reduce the health disparities.
This plan led directly to the construction of the District C police station on Fillmore Avenue in Buffalo. The study analyzed the impact of a proposed consolidation plan for the Buffalo Police Department in the Martin Luther King Park neighborhood. The study found that police stations are being moved out of violent crime areas and replaced with district stations in low crime areas and areas with less violent crime and in area with large white populations. The prevalence of violent crime is ignored in the determination of new district stations and the location of the stations was driven by opportunity rather than need. The study made the case for the need of a Masten District Station due to its high rates of violent crime and the need for a symbolic police presence in this developing area. The result was the construction of the “C” Station on Fillmore Avenue.
This was the UB Center’s first project is a white working class neighborhood. Its goal was to formulate a five year plan for infrastructure and other improvements within the Main-Penora neighborhood. The response was driven from the projected population growth of the area as well as the designation of the project area as “Blighted/Slum” by the Village Board. The plan focused on identifying key improvements for the Main Street area with a goal of proposing strategies where redevelopment could be coordinated. Redevelopment efforts were framed around the theme of working-class history of the community and the target areas proximity to the former Dresser Steel industrial site, located adjacent to the Main-Penora residential community. The plan outlined specific recommendations for the residential and commercial revitalization along Main Street, including neighborhood infrastructure, business and industrial development, and public health and safety. The result of this comprehensive revitalization plan included recommendations for the redevelopment of the Dresser industrial site, including building an access road through the site to connect the neighborhood with Transit Road and key neighborhood improvements to celebrate the community’s working class heritage.
Back in 2000, at the same moment that the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus initiative was launched, the UB Center development a neighborhood plan to guide the redevelopment of the Fruit Belt neighborhood. The plan and agenda constructed a framework to guide restoration, identified potential sources of revenue, and formulate an implementation strategy. It mapped out a direction that should be taken in revitalizing the community simultaneously with the development of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC). This involved constructing a scenario that leads to a turning point in the revitalization of the Fruit Belt resident neighborhood, which created a synergism between the Fruit Belt and Medical Campus.
The University Community Initiative (UCI) was born out of the quest to transform the University at Buffalo into an engine to drive the redevelopment of the University Heights community and surrounding neighborhoods. This was the first UB Center project to translate our theory of neighborhood development into a down on the ground initiative. The UB South Campus is situated on the edge of the city, where Buffalo meets the Town of Amherst. The goal of the University Community was to recreate University Heights as a regional neighborhood, which blends together Buffalo and Amherst. The initiative focused on integrating the South Campus into the larger University Heights community, redevelopment the University Plaza, and turning the High Street commercial corridor into a vibrant neighborhood center. The UCI was highly successful and led to the transformation of the High Street corridor and the revitalization of the University Plaza.
This project brought the UB Center head to head with the City of Buffalo’s economic development agenda. The issue focused on the contradiction between economic development and community development. The City wanted to build a road from Main Street to the Kensington Avenue, thereby creating a connector between Main Street and the industrial part along William L. Gaither Parkway. The UB Center wanted to turn the large land tract at Main-LaSalle into a residential development that would strengthen the community. This study made the case for residential development in the University Heights community and resulted in the construction of the first residential subdivision build in the community in 30 years. The project won the 1996 Outstanding Planning Project from the Upstate New York Chapter of the American Planning Association.
This was the first major study of the health status of Buffalo’s black community, and the first study in Western New York to show a connection between neighborhoods and the social determinants of health. The project was made possible by a unique partnership consisting of the Black Leadership Forum, Kaleida Health, Wegmans, and the UB Center for Research in Primary Care. The study was anchored by 900 random household surveys and an extensive study of Near East Side neighborhood conditions. The study not only documented health disparities and showed their relationship to social issues and neighborhood conditions, but also brought to the forefront the importance of wellness as a strategy for addressing health conditions in the black community. The study thus demonstrated that wellness was critical component community building in the African American community. It concluded by saying “the black community cannot meet the challenges of the ne millennium of its members are unhealthy and die prematurely.”
This study introduced regionalism in the Buffalo metropolitan region and ignited over a decade of debate and discussion regionalism and city-county consolidation. At the request of late UB President, William Griener, the UB Center organized a research team consisting of faculty from the Department of Urban and Regional Planning. The Governance Project, as it was called, was based on the premise that a energetic and prosperous region required competent, informed decision making, especially in the public sector. Its goal was to “encourage and advance dialogue on how to create a responsive, cost-effective structure of governance and to propose action steps to support that critically important effort.” The report spawned a shift in regional governance and led to the founding of the UB Regional Institute in 1997 to create a framework for supporting regional action in Western New York.
This project represented the UB Center’s first community economic development project. Funded by the Ellicott District Task Force, this was the marketing phase of a larger project to revitalize the Towne Gardens Plaza. Our study was to conduct a market study of the Town Garden community and to design a retail mix for the plaza based on our findings. This was the first project in Buffalo to demonstrate that a viable economic market existed in the inner city. This project resulted in the construction of the Towne Gardens Plaza, which still exists today. Most significantly, the study gave us insight into the role that retail plazas and commercial corridors play in the development of inner city neighborhoods. The study also made us keenly aware of the problems that accrue in neighborhoods when they are food and service deserts.
This initiative grew out of a commission that organized by the Buffalo Common Council to explore the reasons why poverty and an underclass were growing in Buffalo. The UB Center won the contract to lead the work of the commission. This work unfolded concurrent with work on the Black Buffalo Project. This caused the insight from project to influence the other. The result was the development of two very complimentary initiative. The commission concluded poverty and an underclass was growing in the black community because of economic dislocations caused by the city’s changing economy. Most significantly, the commission concluded that poverty was not randomly distributed. It had a spatial dimension. Poverty was rooted in the black neighborhood. The commission concluded that a neighborhood-level community economic development strategy, which was linked to human service delivery, was needed to attack this issue.
The commission also discovered that an organizational mismatch existed in Buffalo. The view was that economic and neighborhood developments were paramount in the black community, but there were no organizations to attack these intertwined problems. Thus, the commission, in partnership with the UB Center and UB Law School, transformed the commission into the Office of Urban Initiative (OUI), a 501C3 community economic development organization and housed it in the UB Center. OUI became the first organization in Western New York that was focused exclusively on community economic development issues.