Why Isn't Our Campus Downtown?

Bruce Fisher laments Buffalo's decades-old decision to put their university campus outside of town, missing the lesson that "eds and meds" are central to the prosperity of a city.

"A generation ago, Buffalo and state politicians ignored the experience of New York City, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and other American cities that have downtown college and university campuses. Instead, they built the State University of New York's biggest upstate university center far from the historic downtown transportation crossroads of the Western New York region.

In so doing, they marooned tens of thousands of students far from the places where education connects with the rest of life. The medical school is isolated from the teaching hospitals, the law school from the courts, the school of social work from the social-service agencies. Locally owned retail businesses, which in other cities are organized in commercial zones that serve whole communities of students, faculty and staff, must make do without them.

New York's leaders also forced the 25,000 students and 10,000 staff to rely on cars, because there is no effective regional transportation network-because there is no hub large enough to merit one. The regional crossroads is where it has always been: in downtown Buffalo. The university in isolation is not a city or even an "edge city." It's just a big node or activity center, off by itself, tangentially connected to the regional economy, much like the large state prison complex near Gowanda."

Full Story: Eds and Meds



Campus Downtown

I have no written evidence, but a friend who was a student there at the time told me that Gov. Rockefeller deliberately decided to create a suburban campus outside Buffalo in an attempt to insulate the university from the radical political activity of the 1960s.

Something similar happened in Oakland. Merrit College (a community college) was the birthplace of the Black Panther Party. To insulate it from unrest, they built a new campus in a remote location in the Oakland Hills. Students have suffered from long commute times ever since.

Charles Siegel

Amherst Campus design

Like many things in Buffalo, the UB expansion was a major missed opportunity, but that was long ago....

I attended UB back in the 1980's when the Amherst (North) Campus was just starting to pick up momentum. This was back before UB had division I sports or allowed any sort of private enterprise or 'greek' student groups on campus.

In the 1970's UB was known as the "Berkeley of the East". I also heard the story that the new campus was designed to be "completely riot proof". Don't know to what extent that is true, but I do know that the North Campus was originally planned to be quite a bit larger than it currently is, with it's own internal transportation network and everything. As if 1,192 acres (5 km²), 146 buildings (6,715,492 sq ft (623,890 m²)), 10 residence halls and 5 apartment complexes is not big enough! More details about their future plans can be found here: http://www.buffalo.edu/ub2020/plan/phase2_north_growth.html

Prepare for the AICP* Exam

Join the thousands of students who have utilized the Planetizen AICP* Exam Preparation Class to prepare for the American Planning Association's AICP* exam.
Starting at $245
Book cover of the Guide to Graduate Planning Programs 4th Edition

Thinking about Grad School?

The Planetizen Guide to Graduate Urban Planning Programs is the only comprehensive ranking and listing of graduate urban planning programs available.
Starting at $24.95
Wood necklace with city map

City Necklaces

These sweet pendants are engraved on a cedar charm with a mini map of selected cities. The perfect gift for friends and family or yourself!
Book cover of Unsprawl

Unsprawl: Remixing Spaces as Places

Explore visionary, controversial and ultimately successful strategies for building people-centered places.
Starting at $12.95