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Speakers to address revitalizing Falls Free series to be held in public library

Smart growth principles, vacant properties and downtown retail are some of the topics of a new speaker series that will bring area experts to the general public starting tonight.

"Revitalizing and Romancing the City" is a free series to be held from 7 to 9 p.m. each Wednesday through June 6 in Niagara Falls Public Library, 1425 Main St.

It was announced by the city's new Historic Preservation Society and is sponsored by the Community Preservation Corp., a national nonprofit that finances local development projects that reuse historic buildings.

Smart growth is a system of best practices that could help revitalize Niagara Falls as an urban center, said Marge Gillies, vice president of the preservation society.

Gillies said she attended a similar series in Buffalo and believes it will be valuable to the city.

"It's a very deliberate look at infrastructure in the city and how it gets used," she said.

Gillies said many policies will be discussed at the nine meetings, and a guest panel will come up with a local action plan at the end of each session.

"One thing we wanted to do was after each session say, 'How does this apply to Niagara Falls and what do we do?' " Gillies said. "So it's not just a bunch of lectures and afterward nothing happens and it just dies."

George R. Grasser, president of Partners for a Livable Western New York, will speak tonight on how the city can use smart growth principles to bring revitalization.

Zachary Casale, a neighborhood revitalization coordinator who helped organize the series, said Grasser got interested in the city after he was invited to walk down Main Street last year and talk about smart growth principles to some members of the Main Street Business and Professional Association.

"He wasn't pessimistic, but he said, 'You have so much to do, but the potential here is unbelievable,' " Casale said.

The following is a schedule for the series:

* Tonight -- Grasser on "Stirring the Pot to Prosperity."

* April 18 -- Michael Clarke, coordinator of "Blueprint Buffalo," will talk about strategies to combat vacant and abandoned properties.

* April 25 -- Timothy E. Wanamaker, executive director of the City of Buffalo's Office of Strategic Planning, will speak on housing.

* May 2 -- Heidi Zimmer-Meyer, of the Rochester Downtown Development Corp., will speak on neighborhood and downtown retail in the "era of the big box."

* May 9 -- Roger Brown, a Rochester architect, on improving the appearance of streets and buildings.

* May 16 -- Paul Tronolone, of USA Niagara Development Corp., on walking, biking, driving and public transportation in the city.

* May 23 -- Karl Frizlen, a Buffalo architect, and Joseph Eicheldinger, executive director of the Buffalo Office of Community Preservation Corp., will speak on infill development.

* May 30 -- Henry L. Taylor Jr., director of the Center for Urban Studies at the University at Buffalo, will give a presentation on quality of life for city residents.

* June 6 -- The program will conclude with a special speaker, who will address the next steps for government, businesses and residents.

e-mail: gfranklin@buffnews.com

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