Something's happening in downtown Buffalo -- a growing vibrancy that downtown has not known for years. Buffalo is returning to life.
More than a dozen downtown projects are in various stages of development. Each is impressive on its own, but together, they represent significant economic investment and positive change.
The growth touches every sector of the economy -- government, research, education, arts and culture, offices, retail, housing and more. Developers are using old structures and constructing new buildings that will expand our options for shopping, living and working.
Housing has been one boom area. A number of redeveloped and retrofitted residential units such as the Granite Works throughout downtown are proving popular. No one would have imagined this just a few short years ago. In addition, the University of Buffalo plans to bring thousands of students downtown, with housing soon to follow.
The Hauptman Woodward and UB bioinformatics buildings on the medical campus, the new Blue Cross/Blue Shield building, and the new federal building are a few examples of the most recent new construction and more is on the way.
While new construction alters the "look" of our city, renovations to existing buildings alter the "life" of downtown. The Statler building is under renovation into top-notch mixed-used space. New Era Cap has transformed the old Federal Reserve Building into a showcase. The Darwin Martin House, Frank Lloyd Wright's magnum opus, and the H.H. Richardson complex are on the verge of rebirth. Viewed as a whole, what I see is a remarkable picture of renewal.
But why now? I suggest there are several reasons. First, it is inexpensive to build here compared to New York City, Florida or the Southwest.
Second, there are excellent tax advantages to companies located or expanding in New York's Empire Zones.
Third, the Buffalo Niagara Partnership has done its part advocating for changes in Workers Compensation and other policies to make Buffalo a business-friendly city.
Fourth, the Buffalo Niagara Enterprise has done a fantastic job easing the way for developers to do business here.
Fifth, Mayor Byron W. Brown and his team are doing their part to make Buffalo vibrant.
Finally, Buffalo City School District Superintendent James A. Williams is making a mark in improving Buffalo's schools. As he succeeds, more families will invest in city homes.
At the same time, interest in heritage tourism is growing, and Buffalo has much to offer in this arena, including the Frank Lloyd Wright sites, the Erie Canal, the house where President Theodore Roosevelt was inaugurated and the Underground Railroad Museum.
Good things are, indeed, happening here. Buffalo is on the ascendancy; we just have to open our eyes -- and our minds -- to see it.
Sterling Kozlowski is president of KeyBank's Western New York District.