By Byron W. Brown
As Buffalo enters a new era of opportunity, it’s more important than ever that our city-owned buildings and facilities, most more than 70 years old, are cost-efficient, high-functioning for city residents and equipped with technology for this 21st century economy.
That’s why my administration, working with the Citizens Planning Council and Common Council, aggressively pushed a few years ago to commission the first-ever building analysis survey. This was done to assess the condition of its building portfolio and take on a decades-old repair challenge. This detailed assessment of all building components and systems made sense. As part of my commitment to fiscal responsibility, we absolutely need to know, for budgeting purposes, what our needs are and the cost involved.
The City of Buffalo Building Assessment Survey, received about a year ago, is currently in draft form and under review by city engineers and planners who are working with the consultant to finalize the report. The information in the draft report has been misunderstood by some.
Once complete, this document will serve as a valuable guide, providing a strategic plan to address the short- and long-term needs of city-owned buildings. For instance, data contained in the preliminary assessment shows a substantial savings if the City of Buffalo Department of Public Works consolidated its five facilities into one public works campus. The assessment would also help us determine whether we spend costly dollars on upgrades to aging facilities, sell unneeded buildings or build brand new, more efficient structures.
The conditions of our aging buildings and assets continue to be one of my administration’s top priorities. Since 2006, we’ve spent more than $75 million on building improvements, including $5 million on City Hall. More than $50 million has been spent on public works, police and fire vehicles, including replacing the entire fire fleet. We’ve invested more than $35 million in Buffalo’s sprawling parks system and built two new firehouses for more than $6 million. In addition, we’ve sold a number of our facilities, including firehouses, schools, libraries and community centers. Using the information received in the draft report, we began an $8.5 million investment in physical improvements to city-owned community centers and will allocate another $2 million this year – for a total of $10.5 million – the city’s largest investment in community centers in decades.
The building assessment survey builds nicely on the ongoing work to address our city’s infrastructure challenges. We look forward to the final report that will help us prioritize building improvements, align planning with demographic shifts and economic development, and help establish new dedicated revenue streams and cost savings.
Byron W. Brown is mayor of Buffalo.