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Q&A: Christopher Brown on Kleinhans and Allentown communities

Christopher Brown is president of the Kleinhans Community Association and is vice president of the Allentown Association. He is co-chairman of the 2005 Secrets of Allentown, which promotes the area by opening private homes to the public for self-guided tours. Brown discussed community goals and activities.

Q: How will renovation of the 800 block of Main Street by First Amherst Development impact the communities?

A: The work on Main Street between Virginia Street and Allen Street is like a dream come true. Residents have been working toward historic preservation of this block for more than 20 years.

Beautiful buildings such as the Metzger Building and the McDonnell Building have so much character and will contribute to the streetscape that identifies Allentown as a true Buffalo neighborhood, while the nearby Medical Campus continues to grow and will make this block a strong asset for Allentown and Buffalo as a whole.

Q: How are community leaders dealing with distressed housing?

A: It requires vigilance. We reach out to the owners of these homes, even if the owner is the City of Buffalo, and develop a creative approach to forge a plan for each and every building. Strategic partnerships with other organizations help to strengthen our approach. This approach has led to the renovation of a half-dozen homes.

Our community feels that having a safe, attractive neighborhood is important not only for residents but for the area's many visitors, whether they're enjoying an evening out at the Towne Restaurant, attending a play at the Theater of Youth or a concert at Kleinhans.

Q: What is the "Tours of Kleinhans Music Hall" and what is its purpose?

A: One of the most significant projects I've been involved in is leading historic tours of Kleinhans Music Hall and Olmsted's restored Symphony Circle. The building, a National Historic Landmark, is one of the most beautiful and historic concert halls in the United States. The tours complement other cultural tourism efforts as visitors come to our city to see the incredible buildings constructed by past visionary Buffalonians.

Q: How do the Kleinhans Community Association and Allentown Association plan to promote the area?

A: Events that draw people to our neighborhood are a primary focus of the community. The next event, the annual Secrets of Allentown interior historic house tour, will be the biggest and best ever. It will feature over 15 properties that have been past favorites. The self-guided tour will be held on Sept. 25 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The starting point will be the Butler Mansion on Delaware Avenue at North Street. Our Web site, www.secretsofallentown.org, gives all the details.

Q: What are the key issues affecting both communities?

A: While the Kleinhans and Allentown neighborhoods are well established, they are still home to diverse populations and need continual guidance and protection. Historic preservation, appropriate business development and crime prevention top the list of issues, along with improvements to public education needed to attract families with children.

Q: How far have the Kleinhans and Allentown communities come and where are they headed?

A: I can, without hesitation, say the Allentown-Kleinhans area is much better now. But my goal is to work to have the neighborhood go back in time to when my 85-year-old neighbor describes the neighborhood as a place of boundless beauty when she lived there as a young girl.

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