Category Archives: News

Think About This! Affordable Housing

We asked board member, Grace Andriette, to summarize a recent presentation about an important subject that is relevant to our neighborhood.

Buffalo finds itself suddenly described as a city undergoing an economic renaissance.   Yet for over one hundred twenty-eight thousand (128,000) Buffalonians, this so-called “economic renaissance” only makes life more difficult.  Buffalo’s “renaissance” makes city living more desirable, but as developers find opportunities to create more high-end housing, rents throughout the City rise.  Despite the increase of high income renters in our communities, the City’s poverty rate continues to rise.  Currently, 31.4% of Buffalo residents live in poverty – more than two times the national average.  Families who have lived in the same Buffalo neighborhoods for generations are rapidly becoming “priced out.”

The Future of Affordable Housing was the topic of a panel discussion hosted by Assembly Member Sean Ryan at D’Youville College on February 8th.  Panelists included:  Sam Magavern, Executive Director, Partnership for the Public Good; Dennice Barr, President, Fruit Belt Advisory Panel;  Councilman David Rivera, City of Buffalo Common Council, Niagara District, DeAnna Eason, Executive Director, Housing Opportunities Made Equal, and Todd Rawlings (via video conference), Housing Program Manager, Community & Economic Development, City of Burlington, Vermont.  Mr. Rawlings spoke about Burlington’s inclusionary zoning ordinance which was adopted in 1990.  Today, Burlington, Vermont has one of the nation’s most diverse and sophisticated affordable housing delivery and financing systems, overseen by a broad network of public and non-profit agencies.  Over time, this system has succeeded in helping to create a market where, according to the City’s 2013 Consolidated Plan for Housing and Community Development, fully one-quarter of rental units have been made affordable through public subsidy, regulation, or deed restriction.  Inclusionary zoning has played a significant role in ensuring that housing opportunities for families of all income levels exist within the City of Burlington.

The importance of preserving the rich diversity of Buffalo’s neighborhoods was the focus of Councilmember David Rivera’s comments.  Increasing rents threaten that diversity – especially in neighborhoods on our City’s Westside where housing values and rents have suddenly spiked.  Much of the new luxury or market-rate housing built in the Westside and in other parts of Buffalo is underwritten with generous subsidies from taxpayers; yet many of those same taxpayers are negatively impacted by that development. The recently introduced City Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance is a proven tool in the toolbox designed to create more affordable housing opportunities, and  to protect the rich economic, racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity of our communities.

January Interview: 12 Grain Studio

We are delighted to welcome 12 Grain Studio to our Niagara Street neighborhood! These folks are an amazing creative team – check them out soon!

VN: What four words describe your project?

Creative Art Design Studio

Describe the work you do and the impact you’re trying to make:

We have a wide range of projects going on at the moment, from logos to murals, posters to animations. In all aspects of what we do, there is always a focus on incorporating custom illustration. The majority of our work is for small businesses, nonprofits and higher education. As artists, we also have original handmade crafts and artwork for sale. The appeal is our ability to adapt by using different styles for each clients’ needs and offering a service that is not typically found in this area.

What brings you to the Niagara Street Corridor?

We’ve always looked to Niagara St. because it is culturally diverse, but not too busy. It’s an up-and-coming neighborhood with a lot of potential to be a great part of Buffalo. We also have a few friends with businesses here and want to be part of the rejuvenation. We got connected with Buffalove Development who helped us with a great space.

What are you noticing in Buffalo that deserves more attention?

Incentives for small businesses to open in the downtown area, in affordable spaces, owned by reputable landlords. As Buffalo grows, parking and traffic will become a concern. We would love to see more healthy food options. The need for covered bus stops.

What’s your favorite number & why?

12, because 15 is too much

Beautiful Rehab Complete!

The three story Italianate, brick building has been lovingly restored. Owner Bill Breeser is the proud owner! Buffalo Rising recently posted exterior photographs, we’ll add some interior shots to round out the view.

This project benefited from a Better Buffalo Fund Main Street grant that was secured by Vision Niagara. Administering the grant, while Vision Niagara pursued our 501(c)3 status (finally secured January 2017!), was the wonderfully competent Heart of the City. A mighty thanks to them! Historic tax credits were available too, because it is part of the new Black Rock Canal – Belt Line – Niagara Street Industrial Heritage Historic District. (Whew, that’s a mouthful!). Developing and registering that district was but one benefit of Vision Niagara securing a New York Main Street Technical Assistance Grant. NYHCR, which oversees these grants, tells us that this is the first Main Street grant completed that followed up from a NYSTA Grant.

But on to the pictures!

First floor is beautifully restored! Note the ceiling treatment. We eagerly await the new tenant.

Third floor windows facing Niagara Street.

Third floor kitchen. This is a two bedroom apartment. All apartments have gas fireplaces.

Second floor windows.

Second floor kitchen.

All three apartments have washer/dryer.

All three floors have a security system that allows viewing who is buzzing the doorbell.

Only a bit of a glimpse, lots more lovely details!

Where Have We Been?

 

You might have noticed that Vision Niagara hasn’t had a meeting recently. Well, that’s cuz VN’s Board of Directors has been very busy with defining our vision and developing a 3 year strategic plan.

We started out as a pretty loose group of stakeholders several years ago. More recently, we organized our structure and successfully applied for not-for-profit status. We are an all volunteer group and yet we’ve accomplished so much! Now with the neighborhood developing at practically break-neck speed, the time is ripe for us to really focus our energies.

This determined and committed board of directors (and a few close friends) have carved out major chunks of time from busy schedules so that we can devote ourselves to identifying shared values, developing a vision statement and mapping the road ahead. It’s incredibly hard work and we are very grateful to have professional help, thanks to the generosity of Rich Products.

You’ll hear soon from us about our direction and…. how you can be part of it!

November Interview – Stitch Buffalo

What is Stitch Buffalo? “Utilizing the textile arts as our catalyst, Stitch Buffalo creates opportunities for cross-cultural community experiences and economic empowerment for resettled refugee women in Buffalo, NY. Each week a growing group gathers to weave and embroider.  It is a time of laughter, socialization, curiosity and learning.  Colors and patterns are chosen, beads are strung and women on the edge of society redefine their identity while building bridges of confidence and community.

Initially starting with a single refugee woman, it has now grown into a thriving community of over 55 women from Bhutan, Burma, Nepal, Thailand and Angola. Each week these women come together to form a Refugee Women’s Workshop, sewing handcrafted goods for sale within the community.” (www.stitchbuffalo.org)

Dawne Hoag (pictured above) founded the organization in 2014 and they’ve been growing ever since. Hence, the need to have a new and larger location.

They now have a beautiful working space and an opportunity to show off their handwork because they moved to 1215 Niagara Street, a location with a long history for the neighborhood. Although nondescript as a building, this little structure goes back many decades as a butcher shop and neighborhood store. The interior has original equipment including an oak walk-in cooler.

Jospehina Rizzo is pictured above in the same location, ca. 1930. The cooler pictured in the foreground will now have the enameled trays filled with embroidered works. They will be open for retail on November 25th!

This is an exciting development for our neighborhood because the building has been vacant for several years. Kudos to Rich Products for helping this project move forward!
We spoke with founder, Dawne Hoag recently.
VN: What four words describe your project?
DH: Beautiful textiles women refugee
VN: Describe the work you do and the impact you’re trying to make
DH: We’re trying to bridge communities, provide financial empowerment for women. We encourage women supporting women. We’re building a local community and a circular economy through the textile arts.
VN: What brings you to the Niagara Street Corridor?
DH: We need to be on the Westside to serve the woman that we work with and Rich Products has donated the space.
VN: What are you noticing in Buffalo that deserves more attention?
DH: I’m noticing a lot of homes that need repair
VN: What’s your favorite number & why?
DH: 7 The cycles of seven

Meet VN Board Member Dionne Williamson!

You might wonder who some of the folks are directing Vision Niagara. We’re pleased to present Dionne Williamson who is one of this  year’s honorees at the 45th Annual Buffalo Black Achievers awards, a well deserved and prestigious distinction.

Ms. Williamson is a native of Western New York.  After graduating from Lackawanna Sr. High School she joined the United States Army Reserves, served eight years and earned the enlisted rank of Sergeant.  In her military position as a Personnel Records Specialist, she maintained personnel records-specifically beneficiary and life insurance policies, for enlisted members.  During this time she attended Medaille College and earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration/Management.

Ms. Williamson is no stranger to the world of entrepreneurship as well.  She owned and operated a handmade greeting card business for six years and pursued other entrepreneurial endeavors.  During this time she participated in the University at Buffalo School of Management’s Minority and Women Emerging Entrepreneurial Mentoring Program.  She is also a Certified Interior Design Consultant and received this certification from the New York Institute of Art and Design which has allowed her to further enhance her already creative design and organizational talents.

Ms. Williamson is currently the National Sales Director at Visit Buffalo Niagara.  She has been on the VBN team for 13 years.  In her position, she promotes Buffalo as a meetings and convention destination.  She has worked primarily with the fraternal and religious meetings markets as well as the military and family reunion markets.  Ms. Williamson was recently promoted and now handles the corporate and national association markets specializing in education, environmental, insurance, multicultural and cultural/fine arts just to name a few.

Vision Niagara is grateful for all the advice and hard work that Ms. Williamson donates to our efforts!

September Interview!

We are thrilled to present another important business #onNiagaraSt: West Side Pet Clinic! Joe Speranza, Office Manager, told us a bit about their work.

We love Dr. Susan Sickels, Co-Owner and Head Veterinarian. And we are grateful that co-owner Dr. Reed Stevens established the clinic here.

You can find them on Facebook.

What four words describe your project?

Low Cost Veterinary Clinic

Describe the work you do and the impact you are trying to make

We are a walk-in, pet wellness clinic on the West Side of Buffalo. When we began, our goal was to provide quality, affordable pet care, and educate clients on how to be responsible pet owners.

What brings you to the Niagara Street Corridor?

When we started this project in 2013, Niagara Street wasn’t booming quite like it is now. We wanted to open a brand new type of pet clinic: walk-in, high-quality, low-cost. There have been wonderful advancements in veterinary medicine, but as equipment gets better, prices get higher. Rising prices, unfortunately, left a lot of pet owners behind. We chose Niagara Street specifically because we recognized that the Upper West Side was a densely populated area underserved by Veterinarians, filled with well-intentioned pet owners who were quite frankly scared to take their pets to the Vet because of cost.

What are you noticing in Buffalo that deserves more attention?

The entire West Side deserves more attention. It is such a vibrant community and we are absolutely thrilled to be a part of it. Resurgence Brewing right across the street gets plenty of deserved attention, but lesser-known gems like the West Side Bazaar, and to a greater extent Ranchos Venezuelan restaurant need to be recognized!

What’s your favorite number and why?

13. It’s been my favorite number since childhood but I’m not sure why

We are the Tesla Corridor!

It’s official! Buffalo Common Council has designated Niagara Street from Busti Avenue to Vulcan Street as the “Tesla Heritage Corridor“.

The cultural and industrial history of our neighborhood includes groundbreaking research by Nikola Tesla proven here. In1896, the lights turned on in Buffalo for the first time powered by the mighty Niagara through AC currents. Tesla’s theories, research, and work changed the world. Kudos to Bill Zimmermann for pursuing this designation.

Bike Share on Niagara Street?

Bike lanes are on their way to Upper Rock & Black Rock on Niagara Street. We can’t wait! Plans include a cycle track for much of that distance.

So..how about a transportation hub that includes bike shares? Reddy Bike has reached out to us and will be figuring out the best locations. Yay!

Can you see Buffalo on this list someday for Best Bike Share Programs? We can!