UB Architecture Grads Hired By City of Buffalo to Pursue Plans for New District Downtown

By Mara McGinnis

Release Date: July 21, 1999

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Three 1999 graduates of the UB School of Architecture and Planning are turning heads in Buffalo City Hall with their resourceful building designs and progressive plans to create a new district in an underutilized area of South Buffalo.

Scott Adams of West Seneca, Joshua Alter of Center Moriches, N.Y., and Colleen Ryan of New Hartford, N.Y., have been hired as design consultants by the City of Buffalo Division of Planning to pursue ideas that eventually could turn a former industrial area adjacent to the Cobblestone District and the Old First Ward into a district they call the "Industrial Green."

Their proposals also involve designs for buildings that could themselves serve as exhibits for the 2001 Pan-American Exposition.

The plans and designs were developed as part of an experimental architecture course taught by G. Scott Danford, UB associate professor of architecture. The course requires students to apply studio architecture work to a real-world project.

"We chose this area of the city because it is underutilized and has great potential with respect to land for development and opportunities to build and reuse existing structures," explained Ryan. "We are hoping that the upcoming Pan-American Exposition will serve as a catalyst for innovative future development in this area."

The former UB students envision the Industrial Green as a central work district for environmentally minded groups and individuals. The district would promote and utilize "green" technologies, renewable energies, reclamation of brownfields, smart growth and recycled materials.

Adams explained that he and his colleagues hope to change the perception of the area as a solely industrial, commercial district by instilling a sense of community and family. The area would have historical and cultural attractions -- possibly a children's museum -- and serve as a site for community events.

"Ideally, we want to create an environmentally responsible district with an underlying artistic theme," Adams added.

The plan is being sponsored by Buffalo Mayor Anthony Masiello; Joseph Ryan, commissioner of community development; Frank Manuele, director of planning; Council President James Pitts, and the Green Gold Corporation.

Another major supporter of the plan is Joan Bozer, former Erie County legislator and current president of the Western New York Sustainable Energy Association, who has promoted the former students' work to the city and the Pan-American Centennial Planning Committee.

The former students designed two buildings for the district -- dubbed "Symbiosis" and "The Atrium" -- and have created a redesign of the existing Elk Terminal, formerly the Nickel Plate Railway Terminal.

According to the plan, Symbiosis would serve to display renewable energies and house exhibits for the 2001 Pan-American Exposition. After the exposition, it would serve as the centerpiece for the proposed district. Located at the site defined by Perry, Scott, East Market and Chicago streets, it would be linked physically to the existing Elk Terminal.

The main feature of Symbiosis would be the "Wall of Knowledge," which designers Adams and Alter said would become an icon of Buffalo's past, present and future. This curved, concrete monument would divide the building's interior and be etched with an artistic interpretation of the city's past on one side. The other side of the wall would present a virtual image on polished concrete to reflect the building's exhibition space. The wall would be constructed from the recycled concrete silos of the Kenmore grain elevators, which are to be demolished this fall.

The Elk Terminal would be transformed from a warehouse into a multi-use commercial site, including a business "incubator" for environmentally conscious businesses.

The third building, The Atrium, would be located on South Park Avenue between Marvin and Chicago streets. During the exposition, it would serve as an exhibit site for such green technologies as photovoltaics, passive/solar paneling, recycled materials and gray water systems. Afterward, it would become a clearinghouse for environmental information, as well as headquarters for environmental organizations, explained designer Colleen Ryan.

The design consultants, who also run their own innovative architectural-design business called Insite, are working with the city to generate funding from private donors, foundations and corporations to begin the project.

In the meantime, to gain some visibility, efforts are under way to organize an international mural competition for a design to be painted on a vacant building in the district.