What is “One Region Forward”?

It is a collaborative, broad-based effort to guide and promote more sustainable forms of development in Erie and Niagara counties – the Buffalo Niagara Region – in land use, transportation, housing, energy and climate, access to food, and more. It will combine research and public engagement with planning and action to help us meet the combined economic, environmental, and social challenges of the 21st century.

What is sustainable development?

A well accepted definition of sustainable development includes “providing for the needs of people today without compromising our ability to meet the needs of future generations.” Another common understanding of sustainability involves the so-called “triple bottom line” in which sustainability has distinct economic, environmental, and equity implications.

In more concrete terms for our own region, sustainability embraces concerns for clean air and water; clean and productive soils; effective and affordable infrastructure; efficient transportation systems; safe, decent, and affordable housing; safe and attractive public spaces; and an economy that produces wealth, jobs, and opportunity for all the people of the region.

How is this project being funded?

The project is funded by a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The Buffalo Niagara Consortium was one of 29 grant winners in a competition that drew more than 140 applicants from around the country. HUD is working in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to promote sustainability across the nation.

What are the Federal “Livability Principles”?

The federal interagency partnership known as the Partnership for Sustainable Communities (represented by HUD, DOT and EPA) has adopted six principles to guide their collective effort. Known as the “livability principles,” these include: (1) to provide more transportation options, (2) promote equitable, affordable housing, (3) enhance economic competitiveness, (4) support existing communities, (5) coordinate policies and leverage investment, and (6) value communities and neighborhoods.

Who is directing this project?

One Region Forward is led by a broad-based consortium of public, private and nonprofit entities including Greater Buffalo-Niagara Regional Transportation Council (GBNRTC), Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA), Erie County, Niagara County, City of Buffalo, City of Niagara Falls, Association of Erie County Governments, Niagara County Supervisors Association, University at Buffalo Regional Institute and Urban Design Project (UBRI/UDP), Daemen College Center for Sustainable Communities and Civic Engagement (CSCCE), VOICE Buffalo, Local Initiatives Support Corporation Buffalo (LISC), The John R. Oishei Foundation, Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC), Belmont Housing Resources for WNY, Inc. (Belmont), Buffalo Niagara Partnership (BNP), Empire State Development, Niagara County Department of Social Services, and Niagara Falls Housing Authority.

These entities are represented on the project steering committee which administers the project. All of these entities are contributing in-kind time as a demonstration of their commitment to the project.

In addition, the project will take substantive input from a Local Government Council, comprised of elected and appointed officials from the 64 municipalities of Erie and Niagara Counties; a Private Sector Council representing major employers and businesses in the region; and a series of Community Congresses encompassing members of the general public, including our region’s dense network of neighborhood, community, advocacy, and interest group organizations.

The project will also be fed by the work of subject matter experts working in five focus areas: land use and economic development; transportation and infrastructure; housing equity; climate change mitigation and adaptation; and food access and food justice.

What is a Regional Plan for Sustainable Development?

A Regional Plan for Sustainable Development (RPSD) is a federally recognized document that outlines how a region will coordinate Federal, State and local investments for long-term economic, environmental and social sustainability. By producing this plan, our region will be granted priority status for certain Federal funding opportunities today and into the future.

The RPSD produced through One Region Forward will, in part, advance the Erie Niagara Framework for Regional Growth. The Framework, which was completed in 2006, provided a compelling explanation of some of the problems we face in regard to sprawl without growth, inefficiencies in the provision of transportation and utility infrastructure, and issues of mobility and energy consumption in our transportation system. The Framework established basic policies and principles to guide the future growth and development of our region.

The full RPSD will dig deeper into these issues and provide more focused analysis on areas not fully explored in the Framework, specifically issues of housing, food access and justice, and climate change mitigation and adaptation. These issues have been identified by the Federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities as critical to a Regional Plan for Sustainable Development.

How will One Region Forward “implement while we plan”?

Too often we imagine planning and action as things that are somehow opposed to one another. One Region Forward will demonstrate how planning and action can occur together and promote a process of community-wide learning at the same time.

One Region Forward will identify potential demonstration projects where community priorities and catalytic potential come together. Then we’ll convene key actors from public, private and nonprofit sectors with the capacity to “put a shovel in the ground.” These “implementation councils” will work together to solve problems, hold one another accountable, measure progress, get projects done and then share what they’ve learned during the process with similar locations around the region.

When will the plan be done?

The current schedule calls for a final draft plan to be completed by the beginning of 2015. Preliminary work to forge the project partnership will mostly be complete in 2012. The public kick-off of One Region Forward – the launch of the project website and a series of public meetings – will take place in early 2013. Working groups of subject matter experts will convene beginning in the Spring of 2013 to begin to develop the basic material – information and recommendations – that will ultimately make up the plan.

Public outreach activities and technical assistance will continue throughout the project period. A draft vision and plan will be produced for review by early 2014. Additional work and review will bring us to a final draft plan by the end of 2014. The implementation councils will convene in 2013 and continue work indefinitely.

How can the public participate?

There are many ways for everyone to get involved. Starting in January 2013, one or two large “Sustainability Congresses” will be held each year where members of our community can put their imprint on One Region Forward.

For citizens who want to learn how to carry the message of sustainability back to their community, there will be a 1RF Citizen Planning School, which will offer online and in-person educational sessions by the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning.

There will be other opportunities to shape the process throughout the project. The best way to stay tuned into the process is to sign up for e-news updates from the project or follow us on social media.