2004.3.18 – urban renewal

I live in a city, so I guess you could call me an urbanite. I enjoy being around tall buildings and having the ability to walk to restaurants and night clubs. With these abilities also come problems. Our cities are in danger of extinction. The yuppies have abandoned the city to live in the suburbs and although they work and (sometimes) play in the city, they make their home elsewhere. This threatens the very essence of the city lifestyle. Less people = less customers for small and medium sized businesses and this tends to drive more and more residents out. A vicious cycle.

In the city I live in (Buffalo, NY) we are seeing a sort of urban renewal happening. Three major department stores on Main Street (which have been abandoned and laying dormant for several years) are being remodled. The average rent for a studio in one of these new, fancy buildings is between $900 and $1500 per month plus utilities. The lofts go for even higher amounts in the hopes of bringing some professionals back downtown to live, as well as work.

This plan seems like a good one, but it may leave some of us out in the cold. With new buildings going up around us rents increase in current structures. Small businesses get a boost, but at times they can get greedy. With this new found customer base they will have the ability to raise prices on basic necessities and this may send those of us who have been here for several years packing. Don’t get me wrong – I love the fact that more people will be populating our city streets on a nightly basis, but I am just a bit worried.

Urban renewal is about bringing more business and green space to an area that has been devoid of human contact. It is about giving life to a neighbourhood that is dying. I just hope that this new life doesn’t also bring higher prices and less access to services already in place.

The one thing that would make me happier than anything is the idea of a community garden. We have them in the established neighbourhoods and we now need to find a way to bring one downtown. Growing our own vegetables and flowers would be a great thing for many downtown residents and it would give us more reasons to hang out in the wonderful (short) summer weather that we experience here. A rooftop garden would be ideal, but that seems a bit of a pipe dream, so we shall settle for what we can get.

If you are interested in urban renewal and community gardening please check out the great links below for more information on each. Our cities need help and it will only happen when everyone realizes the need and begins the journey of coming home to downtown! Our country was built around the city idea and we don’t want to lose this wonderful part of history.


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