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A 21st Century Planning Case Study: Buffalo, New York

Frederick Law Olmsted called Buffalo the best planned city in the United States, but in the second half of the 20th century it transitioned into a prototypical "Rust Belt" city.
June 2, 2020, 11am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Downtown Buffalo
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Aaron Gordon visited Buffalo in the time before the pandemic to evaluate the city's history as a paragon of 19th century planning, and to explore its potential future at the forefront of what it hopes will be a "mobility revolution."

Aaron Gordon visited Buffalo in the time before the pandemic to evaluate the city's history as a paragon of 19th century planning, and to explore its potential future at the forefront of what it hopes will be a "mobility revolution." The article centers around the work of Stantec and the Congress for New Urbanism (CNU) to help Buffalo achieve its planning goals, in the process overcoming a history of ambitions "big on aspirations and light on specifics."

"Buffalo is not trying to get with the Hyperloop craze or build the next Maglev train," writes Gordon. "It’s trying to find out if these technologies—stuff which operates on American roads right now like autonomous vehicles and electric scooters—can actually provide real solutions to real people while supporting pleasant neighborhoods where people actually want to live."

While the Stantec and CNU team only worked in Buffalo for a few days, Gordon documented an intense planning process for a city that was once the center of an American renaissance in urbanism, and is now challenged by population and economic decline. Because of the city's "good bones," it can appear like urban planning catnip, according to Gordon, for those looking for ways to transition Rust Belt cities into a new era of prosperity. The history of Buffalo, as presented, serves as a microcosm for the history of planning in the United States.

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Published on Thursday, May 21, 2020 in Vice
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