My cousin Geoff said that Buffalo was a place to “be from,” rather than “move to.” And I’ve heard relatives and friends relentlessly talk about how cold and snowy Buffalo weather is, which, while true at times, isn’t that much different from most other Northeastern and Midwestern cities in the USA during the winter months. Ever since I can remember people–both locals and people across the country–have been talking so.very.negatively about Buffalo. One of the reasons I started BeautifulBuffalo.com was to show locals and the world there’s lots to be so.very.positive about Buffalo.
So what’s the deal about Buffalo? Why do some people talk negatively about it? Did it lose the steel industry in the 1970s, and have hundreds of thousands of people move away in the last couple decades? Yes, quite honestly, it did. Buffalo hit its low point in the late 1970s/early 1980s.
But you know what? Something pretty amazing is happening in Buffalo– the Buffalo of today, 2014. For the first time in DECADES the area GAINED population rather than lost it. Furthermore, the “millenials,” those twentysomething entrepreneurs who want to live in walkable cities and do creative work, are actually–GASP–moving to Buffalo for such a purpose. Why? Well, for one, Buffalo is a very creative, artistic city. The joke would be that because it’s cold and snowy out, artists are inside working on their songs, paintings, dances, plays and other creative pursuits much of the time. Buffalo does have warm/hot months by-the-way, so we’re not “snowed in” like many who’ve never visited may assume.
Anyway, young people seem to be drawn to the City of Buffalo to rehab older homes, start new businesses, and enjoy a less stressful lifestyle than the one offered in New York City. Buffalo is known as one of the nation’s most affordable cities. Taxes are a bit high, yes, but retail prices are somewhat low thanks to Canadians. You see, Buffalo is a booming retail town because tens of thousands of Canadians make the 15 minute to an hour or two trip from Niagara Falls, Hamilton and Toronto to do major shopping weekends and more. What costs $15 in Canada is $8 in Buffalo– so you’ll see a lot of Canadian license plates in the parking lots around Buffalo and its suburbs.
Meanwhile, apartments aren’t crazy expensive. In Brooklyn, for instance, a tiny place costs $1,500 a month– in Buffalo, however, you’d get a bigger place for half that. Not bad. And more and more people are walking, biking, or taking public transportation to and from work in Buffalo. Pretty soon 17,000 people a day will be working in the “medical corridor” and that particular subway station is going to be quite busy like Buffalo’s popular, low-cost airport is.
So the deal about Buffalo in 2014 is this: it’s on the rebound. For the first time in my lifetime I can say Buffalo is truly, actually growing. It’s infused with billions of dollars of development, especially in the downtown core and around places near “Canalside” and “Larkin Square.” Cool, new businesses are setting up shop in what used to be dilapidated old buildings, made new by people in their 20s and 30s who are taking risks, bringing fresh, new ideas to the area, and, in a sense, vision for the future.
For the longest time, Buffalo lacked vision. It plodded along like an old grandma, remembering her faded glory days, waiting to die. But like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Buffalo had its own born-again experience recently, and now it’s like a toddler– fresh with expectation, open to trying new things, dreaming of good things to come. It’s a really exciting time to call myself a Buffalonian.
I love that Buffalo is growing again, becoming a place people “move to.” Buffalo is your classic underdog city– down for the count, left for dead, and then, pow-bam-boom, it’s back on its feet, ready to fight for what’s good, looking to be a champion. This is Buffalo, 2014. –Mark Weber