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Chippewa Alliance forms to advocate for entertainment district

A diverse group of more than 40 business executives, restaurant and bar owners, landlords, schools and residents along and near Chippewa Street have formed a new community organization focused on making the area known for nightlife into a better place to live, work and do business.

The new Chippewa Alliance, unveiled Friday in front of the Calumet Building on Franklin Street, will focus on preserving the district’s unique character and history as an entertainment zone, while advancing increased investments, development, streetscape improvements and quality-of-life issues.

The goal is to capitalize on the district’s new appeal for businesses and residents while maintaining recent momentum of restaurants reinvesting, building owners redeveloping once-derelict structures, and new tenants moving in.

“A year ago, there were a few of us that started to work together in collaboration. We all shared a passion for the neighborhood, and we also noticed the challenges of the neighborhood,” said Elizabeth Vealey, a senior vice president at KeyBank and founding member of the Chippewa Alliance board of directors, who is president of the new nonprofit group. “We need to bring more people downtown, and we believe we can be instrumental in this goal.”

In the process, the venture seeks to create a new sense of community among the various constituencies in what the participants call “the core of downtown Buffalo.”

“We believe that Chippewa is the heartbeat of the city,” Vealey said. “We feel that we have our own DNA, just like Elmwood does, and Allentown does, and many other pockets in the city. It’s time for all of us to collaborate, and that’s what we feel this organization is doing.”

The group’s threefold mission centers around “attracting the right businesses to Chippewa,” enhancing the neighborhood and streetscape for current residents and employees, and driving tourism. In addition to the residents and businesses that coexist, officials noted the presence of Hutchinson-Central Technical High School and other schools within the district, and stressed the need to make the area safe but also vibrant and fun.

“We are spending time looking at everything,” Vealey said. “Anything we can do to beautify and improve the infrastructure.”

The group will also build communication and marketing for the neighborhood, and will seek to help businesses in the district to overcome obstacles.

“This is an exciting time to be on Chippewa, not just for the area’s nightlife and great restaurants, but for the business opportunities and the growing residential presence in our neighborhood,” said Thomas E. Liptak, a vice president of the group, and co-founder and managing partner of Kenney Shelton Liptak Nowak LLP, a law firm that spent $2.4 million four years ago to buy and renovate the century-old Calumet Building into the firm’s new headquarters.

The revival of Chippewa also fits in with the overall Queen City Hub plan to make Buffalo more of a 24-hour city, said Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown, who cited more than $200 million of public and private investment in the area around Chippewa.

“This is a time of great progress in the City of Buffalo,” he said. “We are excited about what’s happening in the City of Buffalo, and I think the goal that everybody has in this community is to accelerate the pace of development and transformation that is taking place in the city.”

Vealey stressed that Chippewa “absolutely will stay an entertainment district,” but also said “it’s much more” than that now. “We also have residents that live here on a day-to-day basis,” she said. “We also have hundreds of professionals now in this neighborhood.”

The alliance includes representatives from KeyCorp’s KeyBank, Uniland Development Co., North American Breweries (Labatt), Kenney Shelton, public relations firm Eric Mower + Associates, social services agency Evergreen Health Services and Delaware North Cos., along with other developers, residents, and restaurant and bars like SoHo Burger Bar, The Lodge and Bacchus.

“This is not the same Chippewa,” she said. “There’s a new story to tell at Chippewa, and we want to be part of writing that story. We’re building a neighborhood here, we’re building accountability, we’re working together and we promise the momentum will continue.”