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Elmwood Village residents and business owners are being asked to participate in a study aimed at shoring up one of Buffalo's most viable communities.

A meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Richmond-Summer Senior Citizen Center at Richmond Avenue and Summer Street, where attendees will be asked to help plan the community's future and identify its assets and liabilities. These will include discussions about urban design goals, marketing and economic development, and quality-of-life issues.

The meeting is part of a larger urban design and marketing study for the Elmwood Avenue commercial district and surrounding neighborhoods. It is being sponsored by the neighborhood group Forever Elmwood, with public funding supplied by North District Common Council Member Dale Zuchlewski, Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, D-Buffalo, and the Mayor's Neighborhood Matching Fund program. These funding sources have collectively provided about $21,000 for the first phase of the study, according to Wendy Pierce, a Forever Elmwood board member.

Ms. Pierce said the study aims "to identify opportunities and potential threats to the Elwood Avenue commercial district and to create an integrated urban design and marketing plan in response" to those findings.

"There has been no comprehensive study taken of the Elmwood area in the last 20 years," she said. "Elmwood Avenue is split into four councilmanic districts. Four years ago, when the city went through a similar process, it looked at those districts individually, but there was not a study that looked at the (whole) area."

Although Elmwood Avenue is generally considered one of the healthier neighborhood-commercial districts in the city, Ms. Pierce stressed that that is largely due to the hard work of many of the business owners who several years ago began cleaning up the street, beautifying the neighborhood and working with city government.

Forever Elmwood was the first civic group to encourage a neighborhoodwide cleanup, beautifying efforts that include installing community gardens, hanging banners and placing wrought iron garbage receptacles on the street.

"We want to make Elmwood Avenue a destination for shopping not only for Elmwood Village residents. We want to attract residents from throughout the city and from around the county to shop here," said Ms. Pierce.

A task force was formed last month to help guide the study. It is made up of Elmwood area business owners, residents and elected officials. They are overseeing the study in conjunction with consultants from Flynn Battaglia Architects, who have taken part in similar neighborhood projects in Rochester and Seattle.

In addition to Wednesday's meeting, a second meeting is planned for 5:30 p.m. March 18 in the Crane Library, 633 Elmwood Ave. A third meeting will be held later in the spring to review the preliminary action plan developed by the task force.

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