Former Mayor of Milwaukee and current President of the Congress for New Urbanism, John Norquist, was in Western New York today to meet with Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) and City of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown. Following their meeting the three announced that the City of Buffalo was one of three cities chosen nationally for a joint project by the Congress for New Urbanism and the Center for Neighborhood Technology which focuses on the economic and transportation impacts of removing elevated highways and reconnecting the urban grid with boulevards.
“Removal of the Buffalo Skyway is an important step in improving access to a new and vibrant Buffalo waterfront,” said Congressman Higgins, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “As Mayor, John Norquist led the charge in promoting demolition of a stretch of elevated highway in his city, clearing the way for $300 million in new development in Milwaukee. Now, the Western New York community has the opportunity to learn and grow from his experience, expertise and commitment to this cause.”
Congressman Higgins recently announced his support for the design of a lift bridge or series of lift bridges to connect Buffalo’s inner and outer harbors, an important component in the waterfront plan unveiled by the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation.
Buffalo's selection was based on the condition of the Skyway and the potential to connect the downtown and surrounding neighborhoods to the waterfront. Buffalo will join Louisville and Seattle as the project team investigates the potential of teardown/rebuild/reconnect options. This project will include comparisons to the impacts of what has happened in those cities which have already removed elevated highways - Milwaukee, Portland and San Francisco.
“This selection is another positive step for the city’s waterfront development activities,” stated Mayor Brown. “I thank Congressman Higgins for his leadership and continuing support of the city’s ongoing effort to transform our waterfront. Now, with the involvement of former Mayor John Norquist, who knows these issues well, the Congress for New Urbanism and the Center for Neighborhood Technology, we can benefit from expert analysis of what to do with the Skyway and enhance waterfront access for our citizens. This is exciting for the City of Buffalo and the future of our waterfront.”
The Congress for New Urbanism and the Center for Neighborhood Technology were awarded a $110,000 grant by the Surdna Foundation for their project titled, “Highways to Boulevards: Reclaiming Urbanism & Revitalizing Cities.”
Founded in 1993, the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) is a nonprofit membership organization made up of more than 2,800 architects, urban planners, developers, real estate professionals, and public officials. Its objective is to initiate a movement in America aimed at restoring urban centers, reconfiguring sprawling suburbs, conserving regional environmental assets, and preserving our built legacy. While more and more public attention is being given to the problems of sprawl, CNU is one of only a few voices addressing the confluence of community, economics, and environment in our cities and suburbs.
"Buffalo has an opportunity to unlock the value of one of its most important assets by reconnecting the downtown to the waterfront,” said John Norquist. “People are rediscovering the character of downtown Buffalo but the city’s rebirth is hampered by how the Skyway disrupts the urban form and limits access to Lake Erie. Growing local support for valuable alternatives to elevated highways strongly influenced our decision to include Buffalo in our project."
The Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT), founded in 1978, is an independent non-profit organization that works to promote more livable and sustainable urban communities. CNT’s approach involves making better and more efficient use of the undervalued resources and inherent advantages of the built and natural systems that comprise the urban environment.
George R. Grasser, founder and president of Partners for a Livable Western New York, was also present to show support for the project. Partners for a Livable Western New York promotes the creation of walkable neighborhoods, the improvement of existing neighborhoods, mixed-use development and other alternatives to urban sprawl and is one of the founding sponsors of the “Smart Growth is Smart Business” interactive speakers series in which Mr. Norquist was a featured presenter in 2005.