Almost every day I go on Facebook it seems like someone has shared a new story about how Buffalo is now the place where all the cool kids want to live, or how Buffalo’s got a renewed spirit of optimism, or how the national media have taken notice of Buffalo’s renaissance – as if the national media taking notice somehow makes it official.
Whenever I see those stories, my first thought is, “What took so long? Buffalo’s been cool for a while.”
I grew up in the suburbs and attended Sweet Home schools in the 1970s and 1980s, and then I lived at home while commuting to Buffalo State College from 1986 to 1990. Shortly after graduating from there and getting my first full-time job in corporate America, I moved out of the house and into the City of Buffalo. I knew right away that I was never going back to the suburbs and I would likely spend the rest of my life here, which I have so far.
In the early 1990s, I rented a quirky upper apartment in the back of a house on St. James Place – one of many incredibly interesting and beautiful streets in Buffalo back then and today. The house was about 100 years old and located in the heart of what is now known as the Elmwood Village.
A typical Saturday for me might include a morning run along picturesque parkways designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, which just happened to take me past some of the most spectacular architecture in the world. Of course, I’d usually end up doing a lap or two around the Olmsted-designed Delaware Park, a true sanctuary for many city residents then and today.
After my run, I’d walk to Bagel Brothers for breakfast, which was just around the corner from my house on Elmwood Avenue. Then I’d walk over to the nearby Village Green Bookstore on Elmwood, where I could browse for a new novel and maybe even hear some live music in the process.
In the early afternoon, I might bike down to the Albright–Knox Art Gallery, which was about a mile away. For dinner, I’d walk to Rigoletto’s, a hip, urban Italian restaurant that was just around the corner from my house. And then for dessert I’d go to the Soda Bar, which had an old-fashioned vibe, and was just around the corner from my house on Elmwood.
I think you get the picture. Buffalo had a lot to offer an educated, cultured and active person without ever requiring him or her to get in a car. And it still does.
In 1997, my wife and I bought an Arts and Crafts double four streets from the Albright–Knox Art Gallery, and we still live in it today. If we put it up for sale, we could probably get $300,000 for it in less than a week.
Originally, the seller had wanted $130,000, but we were able to purchase it for only $109,000, even though it didn’t need any work, because no one had made an offer on it for months. At the time, young professionals were moving to the suburbs or out of the area entirely. Foresight has its benefits, right?
Don’t misunderstand me: I’m thrilled at all the attention Buffalo is getting nationally for its revival, and it’s exciting to see so much momentum building and so many noteworthy projects finally coming to life here.
I just think that if people hadn’t focused so much on Buffalo’s shortcomings and had opened their eyes to the city’s potential sooner, we might be 20 years ahead of schedule.