Blueprint Buffalo (2006) is a policy brief and action plan authored by the Virginia Tech Metropolitan Institute with Local Initiatives Support Corporation-Buffalo, the Institute for Local Governance and Regional Growth, and the Town of Amherst IDA as local partners and the Surdna Foundation providing financial support. The plan seeks to address vacancy as one of the most pervasive issues facing the city of Buffalo, and increasingly, its first ring suburbs. While the plan recognizes the barriers vacancy and blighted properties impose on redevelopment efforts, it also recognizes the opportunities these properties present to the traditional, walkable, and mixed use communities they are located in. These include available land at affordable prices, large parcel assembly options for development, room for innovation, potential for a variety of infill, and potential for job generation around skilled workforce.
The plan recognizes that the city and its first ring suburbs like Cheektowaga, Tonawanda, and Amherst are faced by many of the same problems, including a declining population, aging housing, underused commercial sites, and deteriorating infrastructure. While the suburbs are faced with problems like chronic vacancy, dilapidated rental units, absentee landlords, and vacant commercial strip developments (greyfields), the city must devote substantial financial resources into vacant property management and demolition.
Understanding that vacancy is more than just an inner-city issue, and required regional cooperation to be addressed comprehensively, the plan develops four leadership actions to be pursued by a collaborative partnership of public, private, and nonprofit leaders. These leadership actions include:
- Launch a city-wide vacant properties initiative
- Develop a first-tier suburban vacant property agenda
- Create an Erie-Buffalo vacant properties coordinating council
- Establish Buffalo-Niagara as a vacant property living laboratory
The plan then goes on to identify four key strategies that can be tailored to the needs of each community and neighborhood. These include:
- Regional real property information system
- Comprehensive code enforcement
- Right-sizing and greening the city
- Greyfields and brownfields redevelopment
Blueprint Buffalo gives Buffalo and Erie County a policy framework with which to tackle the issue of vacancy at a regional scale. Without a comprehensive and collaborative approach to this issue, systemic changes needed to alter the region’s settlements patterns will continue unchanged, the city and inner ring suburbs will continue to empty, and more farmland will be consumed by new development.