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Focused efforts will yield best results for Buffalo

We all hold visions for downtown Buffalo, and many of us hope to see a future version of downtown Buffalo bustling with shops, restaurants, hotels and visitors.

It's a long road to get there, and we need to use our scarce resources wisely.

At the request of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, the Buffalo Niagara Partnership assembled a team of local real estate professionals to study downtown's future throughout 2011 and make recommendations in January 2012 to maximize future investment downtown.

I was fortunate enough to help lead the project, which became known as the Buffalo Building Reuse Project, and I'm happy to report that our work has resulted in a number of realistic recommendations to improve the investment climate in downtown Buffalo. Several of the group's recommendations are already under way.

Buffalo Building Reuse Project recommendations include:

*Making strategic investments in public space and amenities to make downtown more attractive to existing and future users.

*Improving the tools that enable developers to complete projects -- and developing new ones.

*Establishing a "smart" development process where one organization coordinates efforts to see projects to completion.

*Aggressively marketing downtown to attract more private sector investment and tenants.

Looking through these recommendations, it's clear that we need to be smart in the ways we invest downtown. It's critical to downtown's future that we focus resources to have the maximum impact.

That means making public infrastructure investments in areas abutting private development, and using any public funds dedicated for downtown in a way that will achieve a measurable, sustained return.

We also need a lead organization to advocate for downtown and the permits, approvals and regulations facing downtown developments.

The support of Brown and the private sector leaders in the Buffalo Niagara Partnership means that this project has a unified backing and the resources to succeed.

Buffalo Building Reuse Project gives us a smart, realistic road map to a prosperous future downtown -- one that can achieve significant results with the resources we have available to us.


James K. Morrell is manager of planning for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority.