A history of inspired planning

Still from See It Through Buffalo documentary film by the School for the 2018 TIME SPACE EXISTENCE exhibition, "City of Trees.".

"City of Trees," a still of Buffalo's Frederick Law Olmsted-designed park and parkway system, from the documentary "See It Through Buffalo," produced for the 2018 Time Space Existence exhibition in Venice. (c) First + Main Films

Imagine LaSalle draws inspiration from long line of planning efforts that came before it

Buffalo's redevelopment of LaSalle Park rests on work by many others who came before. Indeed, Buffalo is a city with a long history of inspired urban planning, from its Frederick Law Olmsted-designed system of parks and parkways, to its Joseph Ellicott grid+radial street system, to world-renowned architectural masterworks from the late 19th and early 20th century, the height of Buffalo's industrial might. The city has also created an official planning framework for its future in partnership with thousands of citizens.

Among its aspirations are for well-designed, accessible parks and greenspaces, and new connections to the water. The reimagining of LaSalle Park presented an opportunity to do both. 

LaSalle Park, as it has been known, is just a few hundred feet from The Front, part of Frederick Law Olmsted’s city-wide system of parks and parkways. Olmsted defines the gestalt of daily life in Buffalo, just as do the lake and river waterfronts, and Joseph Ellicott’s radial and grid street plan. Olmsted’s legacy remains central to life in Buffalo, but it also exists because of the efforts of civic leaders who brought Olmsted to Buffalo and paid to realize his vision, as well as citizens a century later who mobilized to preserve, restore, and honor his work for public enjoyment.

A century ago, water covered the place where LaSalle Park exists, next to the Erie Canal, now an interstate highway. Those who filled that land created the park as much as anyone. The 1916 water pumping station, more like a cathedral than a public utility, still operates. Over the years, use of LaSalle Park was heavy, investment in it sparing. Yet it attracted parents and children to the playground, dog walkers, bird-watchers, soccer and baseball leagues, skate-boarders, ethnic festivals, concert goers, even late-night partiers. They have used the park, but in a sense, they have made it, too.

View a full list and bibliography of documents included with the exhibition in Venice, including copies of the City of Buffalo's official planning framework, and reports and findings from the Imagine LaSalle planning process.

Buffalo's planning framework

collage of report covers from the Queen City planning series.
In 2030 Buffalo will be the Queen City of the Great Lakes once more, growing again, renewed, and rebuilt from its foundations, a model of smart growth and sustainability.

- Vision statement, Queen City Comprehensive Plan, 2006

The Queen City Planning Series comprises four planning documents developed over a decade. The individual documents include a comprehensive plan, a strategic plan for downtown, a strategic plan for the waterfront, and a restoration and management plan for the Olmsted park system. Built through collaborative planning efforts much like Imagine LaSalle, they represent the city's collective vision for its future. The School of Architecture and Planning's Urban Design Project (now merged with UB Regional Institute) led this planning series to work with the community to shape a new vision for Buffalo, NY. The series was led by experts, but built by citizens and community leaders to ensure an informed and actionable dialogue about the future of the city, including important decisions emerging around land use, downtown development, waterfront and the Olmsted Park System.

Additional planning efforts led by the School and its UB Regional Institute include the economic development strategies for Buffalo and its surrounding region, a community-driven reinvestment strategy for the city's distressed East Side, and a long-term strategy for sustainable development. 

Strategy for Prosperity.

A Strategy for Prosperity in Western New York, WNY Regional Economic Development Council, with support from the Brookings Institute and UBRI, November 2011. A series of annual progress reports have been produced since 2011 reporting on this plan's progress and its companion Buffalo Billion Investment Plan 2012-2019.

One Region Forward cover.

One Region Forward: A New Way to Plan for Buffalo Niagara, Regional Plan for Sustainable Development, prepared by the UB Regional Institute and the School of Architecture and Planning, Buffalo, NY, 2014.

East Side Avenues report cover.

Annual report for East Side Avenue Initiative: The Start of Something Big on Buffalo's East Side, prepared by the UB Regional Institute, Buffalo, NY, 2020.