Weekly Feature



2018-10-17 / Business

New Urbanism key to continued growth

CATHY PICIULO
Chamber of Commerce Executive Director

The greater Tonawanda area has the potential to continue to enjoy the resurgent growth that is spilling out of Buffalo, and that potential lies in the New Urbanism movement.

Over the weekend, I got a crash course in urban planning in my desire to inspire our leaders to create a fruitful region by re-imagining the future that will welcome the coming generations.

The New York State Chapter of the Congress For The New Urbanism held a series of events in Amherst, including presentations and discussions about land use, economics, equity, agricultural land protection, smart growth, the value of existing infrastructure, sprawl repair, downtown revitalization, walkable communities, transit-oriented districts and community involvement.

New Urbanists believe that well-designed cities, towns, neighborhoods and public places help create community, healthy places for people to thrive and prosper.

On Friday, featured speaker Howard Zemsky, president and CEO of Empire State Development, explained that the core of the problem in upstate New York over many years is that we have been losing population and our economy has been growing slower than downstate.

The most significant challenge Western New York faces is the cost of maintaining infrastructure and services after experiencing a significant loss in population. In the last few decades, we built 500 miles of new roads. It costs tens of millions of dollars to maintain those roads and other components of infrastructure, as well as services including school districts, fire departments and governments. When you spread those increasing costs over a decreasing number of people, you do not create a great recipe for sustainable long-term economic development and growth.

Therefore, the single most important statistic is how we are growing the young population in a significant way. People of child-bearing age are critically important to our economic future. They are productive, they are starting new businesses, and they are buying homes, starting families and making investments.

We need to focus on revitalization and transportation-oriented development, walkability, waterfront activation, historic preservation and making this region more desirable and likely to retain young people.

The Ken-Ton Chamber of Commerce is able to provide common ground for businesses, government, nonprofits, schools, churches and the community. It is vitally important that our local businesses and the community get involved and provide us input as their voice for our future. As a member of the Niagara Falls Boulevard Steering Committee that was formed as an alliance with the towns of Amherst and Tonawanda, the chamber will have input on upcoming urban planning initiatives such as the Boulevard Mall and the proposed NFTA light rail extension. Join us and be a voice for the future.

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