>What it's like:
Rich in history and diversity, the Niagara District area of the West Side of Buffalo was for many years an entryway for the immigrants who came to the city from Western Europe. Bordered by Porter Avenue, Forest Avenue and the Niagara River, the largely residential neighborhood reaches almost as far as Main Street and is only minutes away from Canada. It has gone through some tough times but, according to local officials and community volunteers, is on its way back.
>Where to go:
There are a number of business districts in the community, including the Elmwood Village, Grant Street and the Connecticut Street area. D'Youville College has a planned expansion under way. The area also has many stores and restaurants.
>What makes it unique:
It's multicultural and diverse, with both affluent neighborhoods and those that are struggling, yet it remains a very close-knit community.
>A person you should know:
Harvey Garrett is executive director of the West Side Community Collaborative and has lived in the neighborhood for 15 years.
>Q: What drew you to this kind of work?
A: I was working on my house. The area behind me on the West Side was really rough: drugs, prostitution, crime, vacant properties. Part of improving the house turned into improving the neighborhood.
>Q: Tell me about the Collaborative.
A: It's been around for about nine years. It's all volunteer, with no paid staff and no fundraising. We have no money, but we've brought millions of dollars (in private investment) into the West Side. We basically train and empower the neighborhood to turn itself around. We started a five-year plan to improve property values, to reduce crime, to reduce the number of vacant properties and to improve the quality of life for people in the neighborhood. We had a block by block plan starting at Richmond Avenue and heading toward the river.
>Q: How's the plan working out?
A: It's going very well. In the past nine years we've tripled the area's property values, according to the Buffalo Niagara Association of Realtors. Crime has been reduced, and we've won a national award for crime abatement. Now is a good time to live in the city. After decades of decline, it's coming back.
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