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CITY WATERFRONT NEEDS MORE GOOD HOUSING

"Buffalo's billion-dollar waterfront" lead article in the Aug. 9 Viewpoints section highlights some of the plans and projects contemplated for our precious, largely vacant lakeshore and riverfront real estate.

Near the end, the feature made passing reference to an area where professional planners have surely "missed the boat" -- housing.

Buffalo desperately needs to address urban flight, the shrinking tax base and suburban sprawl before we construct any more promenades, parklands, nature preserves or zoos and museums.

What should be considered for at least some of this property is one or more market-rate unsubsidized housing developments. Rebecca Park, Hickory Woods and Walden Heights have all been successful within the city. Some slightly more upscale townhouses and/or villas and courtyard homes would be well-received. To be strictly avoided are the project-type apartments of Pine Harbor or Shoreline, the high-rise towers of Admiral's Walk and Waterfront Village's pricey condos.

One nearby planned community that embodies many desired features is located in Hamburg. "Berkley Square" off Big Tree Road is a "unique village with 3 styles of housing . . . gas lamp-style street lighting and a beautiful village park," to quote their brochure. Although I do not mean to suggest that this subdivision is totally suitable for replication in a city setting, some of its amenities, when combined with a view of the water, would be attractive to buyers willing to invest perhaps up to $150,000 for such homes.

If that area could be zoned into the immensely popular Waterfront Elementary School, we could be assured of a stampede of young families. Or, perhaps a new neighborhood school, like the Northwest Academy under construction, could be part of the plan.

On a recent visit to Toronto, we noted a number of such developments under way along Lake Ontario. On the U.S. side, the southern shore near Olcott displays a new townhouse development in that price range that is nearly sold out.

Let us not allow what might be our last chance to put these prime acres back on the tax rolls -- and re-affirm the many advantages of urban living -- to slip through our fingers.

Peter P. Schifferli Buffalo

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