Urban Planning Students Turn Their Ideas Into Action on Buffalo’s East Side – UBNow: News and Views for UB Faculty and Staff
Thanks to the work of three UB urban planning students determined to apply their skills in the surrounding community, an immigrant-owned business on Buffalo’s East Side gets a facelift.
The $40,000 Storefront Revitalization Grant – the maximum award offered by the Erie County Community Development Fund – will help Yasri Alabbadi, owner of Charlie’s Food Mart on Broadway, transform his deteriorated storefront into a facade historic brick building with new signage, awning and street-side amenities.
The effort began in fall 2021, when Fillmore Forward, a nonprofit in the Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood, approached Emmanuel Frimpong Boamah, associate professor and acting chair of UB’s Department of Urban and Regional Planning. , for advice on visioning and securing resources for storefront revitalization. in the economically struggling Broadway-Fillmore corridor.
Frimpong Boamah, who ran a studio project on the East Side and co-runs a large community research project in the region, engaged the Graduate Planning Student Association (GPSA) and the African American Students of Architecture and Planning (AASAP) to mobilize a volunteer effort. A number of students took on the challenge during the fall 2021 and spring 2022 semesters, with three students – Andrea Harder, Silvi Patel, and Shameeq Willis – working over the summer to develop the final grant proposal.
After evaluating several business proposals, Charlie’s Food Mart rose to the top of the list. Alabbadi was interested not only in improving his business, but also in contributing to the betterment of the whole neighborhood.
With just a month to turn the proposal around, Harder, Patel and Willis met with Alabbadi several times during the spring 2022 semester to understand his vision, while consulting with Frimpong Boamah and Fillmore Forward to assess neighborhood conditions and put together their ideas. of design into a final proposal. The $40,000 prize was announced by Erie County in August.
The resulting grant will support the replacement of the current facade with brick veneer and add red and white signage, as well as an awning reflecting the historic character of the Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood. The grant will also provide resources for curbside vegetation, a bike rack and a bench.
Student volunteers say the greatest reward is supporting the aspirations of the community and its residents. “Understanding a community’s needs and how they view their neighborhood is critical,” says Patel. “To have the opportunity to work for the Broadway-Fillmore community, to do something valuable for people, is what inspired me to get involved.”
Willis, a second-year MUP student, agrees, “What inspired me to be part of this project was bringing help where it’s needed and my love for design. One of the takeaways from this project is the importance of collaborating and adopting the ideas that everyone gives. It makes the process more rewarding.
Harder says the project is helping address the effects of divestment in one of Buffalo’s most important neighborhoods. “Broadway-Fillmore has a rich history and was once considered Buffalo’s second downtown,” she explains. “However, white flight and the decline of the industry ultimately led to disinvestment from this community.”
She adds that supporting an immigrant-owned business contributes to a long history of diversity in the community. “Broadway-Fillmore was originally inhabited by German and Polish immigrants. To this day, immigrants play a vital role in contributing to revitalization efforts and making Broadway-Fillmore a diverse and resilient community.
Such community-minded sensitivities define UB’s urban and regional planning agenda, says Frimpong-Boamah.
“Buffalo is our home, and we take pride as a school and department when our students translate our theories of justice, placemaking, and equity into real-world solutions that benefit members of our Buffalo home,” says -he. “This project, like many others undertaken by our faculty and students over the years on Buffalo’s East Side, reflects our commitment to thoughtfully and ethically engage with residents of the Broadway-Fillmore area. “
He notes that community partners working daily behind the scenes lay the groundwork for these educational experiences.
“This project adds to the community process, led by Mrs. Rita Gay and her Board Members of Fillmore Forward Inc, to redesign the Broadway-Fillmore Commercial Corridor as an economically vibrant, safe and pedestrian-friendly environment historically . marginalized communities of color and other residents of this neighborhood.