On his 60th day in his new office, Commissioner of Economic Development, Permit and Inspection Services Brian Reilly called a meeting at Belmont Shelter's offices, 1195 Main Street, last night in order to ask the question: How Can We Maximize the Local Economic and Social Capital Impacts of Buffaloâ€™s Vacant and Abandoned Residential Properties? The neighborhoods in question run from Main Street to Jefferson Avenue and Best Street to Kensington Avenue, and are best known as the Masten Park, Hamlin Park and Cold Spring areas.
Reilly billed the meeting as an opportunity in which "Issues and opportunities for supporting the future of Buffaloâ€™s housing and creating value in our neighborhoods" would be discussed. Saying it was time to make time for people to talk, Reilly promised regular meetings like this one.
Proving to have a good understanding of the people in town most apt to create a think tank for a project of this scope, Reilly invited a veritable "who's who" among housing and neighborhood advocacy.
He looked for people with "the experience, connections, resources and passion we need to change this city and create new housing value for the future of Buffalo." Reilly also stated, "We are a diverse community of implementers and doers."
The meeting of approximately 50 people began with a facilitator asking people to write their neighborhood issues on a piece of paper and then put that paper on the wall. From there, a post-it designating an area within Bethel was put on the paper, and people willing to be part of that discussion group went to that area.
There were two 45-minute sessions, so that people could change focus groups, or they could go from group to group to glean a little from each one. There were staff members from Reilly's office in each group, and notes will be written up and distributed to each attendee from each of these groups (more to come from BRO).
Vacant lots, homesteading, foreclosure prevention, quality of life issues, land banking, house mothballing and renovation, tool lending and jobs were issues that were discussed. Though people in the room and within groups were aware of each other in most cases, this was a first opportunity for many to sit down and get into the nitty-gritty of shared issues, lending strength in numbers. The next phase will likely bring community members to the table for input and implementation of future plans concerning these focus issues.
It's a new way of doing business in the city, and establishes Reilly as someone willing to hear concerns and work toward goals. The more the right people push the boulder in the right direction, the more likely we are to see positive results.
Those involved in the start-up meeting were:
Mayor Byron Brown
City of Buffalo, Economic Development Department
Councilmember Demone Smith
Belmont Shelter CDC
Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC)
Councilmember Brian Davis