See You in Buffalo
By Stephanie K. Meeks | From Preservation | July/August 2011
Buffalo's architecture is world-class. But what truly sets this city apart is the contagious enthusiasm of its preservation community. Local activists, tourism officials, and preservationists alike have embraced the power of preservation as a tool for economic rebirth and renewal.
We believe they have good reason to be confident. One of our most important priorities here at the National Trust is to spread the word that preservation creates jobs, supports businesses, and revitalizes communities.
We certainly have plenty of evidence to help us make the case. In May, we held our National Main Streets Conference in Iowa, where Main Street programs have attracted a remarkable $1 billion in private investment over the past 25 years. That's about 79 private dollars for every public dollar invested.
The federal historic tax credit program is another public investment that more than pays for itself. The cumulative $17.5 billion cost of the 35-year-old program has been more than offset by the $22.3 billion in federal tax dollars generated by historic tax credit projects.
And then there are on-the-ground results in places such as Buffalo. Neighborhood by neighborhood, the city is investing in restoration and reuse of historic buildings—and attracting attention and residents in the process. In 2007, the American Planning Association named Buffalo's Elmwood Village, known for its historic commercial district, one of America's Great Neighborhoods, and on the West Side, local citizens have leveraged their vacant housing stock to create one of the city's fastest growing real estate markets.
Our goal at the National Trust is to support such grassroots efforts. In 2009, we included Buffalo on our annual list of America's Dozen Distinctive Destinations, and then last year, we began convening community groups and neighborhood leaders, with the hope of expanding interest in preservation as a tool for combating the challenges of vacancy and abandonment.
The response has been nothing short of inspiring. About 16 groups now meet regularly across the city, and we support their efforts with networking opportunities and road trips to nearby cities, including Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Rochester, grappling with similar issues. A National Trust-sponsored forum in late May also brought in experts from other cities to share best practices in preservation, restoration, and neighborhood revitalization.
These local efforts are adding up to a national model of creative urban revitalization. I hope you will join us in Buffalo to see first-hand the exciting work underway. Visit PreservationNation.org/conference to find out more about Buffalo, the conference, and the National Trust's community revitalization work. Chances are we can help save a place that matters near you.
For more photos, stories, and tips, subscribe to the print edition of Preservation magazine.