Jump-Starting Neighborhood Revitalization With a Gift to UB's Center for Urban Studies

Release Date: November 6, 2001

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Committed to helping people change their worlds, the Rev. Robert E. Grimm and his wife, Roberta, have given $300,000 to the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning as seed money for a project to transform Buffalo's "Fruit Belt" neighborhood.

UB's Center for Urban Studies is launching the project through the Inner City Transformation Group, developing a new model of community revitalization built on a concept called "turning point scenarios," which means that certain events, groups or persons can affect change.

Calling it an "extraordinary gift of commitment," the head of the project, Henry Louis Taylor Jr., UB professor of planning and director of the Center for Urban Studies, said the goal is to "radically reconstruct neighborhoods."

He added: "The Grimms' gift is jump-starting the process so that we can begin leveraging funds to facilitate partnerships and make it happen. Ultimately, it will be a $40 million to $50 million project using an innovative development model that we hope will work in communities across the country."

Grimm, who retired in 1987 as director of the Council of Churches of Buffalo and Erie County, said he and his wife were fortunate to have inherited money that they wanted to share. "Having lived here for 25 years, we were looking for a project in this community that would help people improve their lives."

Grimm said that during his career as an ecumenical leader, he always has been a community activist. He added: "Mr. Taylor's project seemed not only exciting, but even more viable because of the university support."

Taylor explained that, "What's unique about this model is that the projects will be under the control of the neighborhood residents. We have to integrate the expertise and the money with the neighborhood needs so that we can radically alter and change conditions of life in that community."

He said that a comprehensive plan would have to address all the needs of current and future residents and changes would encompass three main areas: economic development, physical transformation and community-building activities.

Economic development would include workforce development, as well as searching for ways to take advantage of the current commercial opportunities and to stimulate new businesses. Physical transformation might include new buildings, rehabbing and reusing current facilities, repairing or replacing sidewalks and streets, extensive landscaping and open spaces for parks or community use. Community-building activities might include a series of programs or projects to help families with issues such as public health, safety, employment and family relationships.

The Fruit Belt generally covers tract 31 in the city, bordered by Best, Jefferson and Main streets, and the Kensington Expressway, and includes the medical corridor along High Street.

The Grimms' gift is part of UB's $250 million campaign, one of the largest ever conducted by a public university in New York and New England. Although it's the fifth major fund-raising campaign conducted by UB, it's the first national/international campaign, the first university-wide campaign and the first to be alumni-driven with campaign volunteer leaders from all over the country. Funds raised will be used to enrich academic programs, support students ranging from undergraduates to post-doctoral students and to enhance university life.

For information on how you can support the University at Buffalo, go to http://www.buffalo.edu/giving.