Today your intrepid blogger is checking in with you from her hometown, Buffalo, New York. Situated on Lake Erie, Buffalo was once home to prosperous steel, car and flour milling industries. It succumbed to the changing fortunes of those manufacturers, caused by the rise of new technologies and foreign competition.
The city was relegated, along with many other American cities, to the ranks of the Rust Belt. It became the brunt of endless jokes, my favorite (if I’m allowed one) comes up in the musical A Chorus Line. When one of the dancers confesses that when living in Buffalo, he was so depressed he considered killing himself. But he soon realized: Committing suicide in Buffalo was redundant.
This is my first visit “home” in about 16 years and it’s given me the opportunity to counter some of this bad press. Buffalo ain’t what it used to be. It’s bouncing back, re-creating itself in a 21st century incarnation that will – hopefully – equip it for sustained growth in this still-young millennium.
Today I had the privilege of being taken on a guided tour by a native Buffalonian Booster who showed us where the city was heading. And I am talking about serious inner-city redevelopment. Our guide, Peter Z, told us the mantra is Med/ Ed.
Several world-reknowned medical research enterprises have led the way by building state-of-the-art facilities in Buffalo’s city center. The University of Buffalo is boldly following suit and also moving its medical campus downtown. The face of the city is being tranformed.
Introducing students to the area – moving them in from the suburban campuses – brings in fresh young blood. It’s not unknown for students from elsewhere to graduate and stay to settle down in there newly acquired hometown.
These developments reflect the daunting challenge facing every city in every country in the developed world: demographics. A population increasingly suffering from diseases that typically afflict the ageing will require more medical facilities and research to better fight those ailments. Jobs in the medical care professions are bound to proliferate.
As we cruised along streets lined with old factories, we were confronted by buildings impressively rejuvenated to house offices and lofts and the amenities needed to serve the inhabitants. There are still many more properties requiring the same treatment, but the word on the street is that real estate prices are rising as we speak.
Meanwhile down on the waterfront, the decaying harbor facilities necessary for Buffalo’s once-thriving industrial life are being aggressively replaced by water-side promenades and gardens to create leisure options for all of those professionals now working – and even living – downtown.
NO MORE ARMPIT
Optimism is the word to describe the smell of the air in Buffalo these days. Although it may still have a long road to travel to regain its former glory and affluence, the city is well on its way. I wish it well on its odyssey.