Buffalo's Burgeoning Retro-Hip Vibe

By Jason Leach
Published January 10, 2008

People laugh at me for my secret love affair with Buffalo.

I much prefer it to our glass-walled fortress to the northeast. Today's Toronto Star does a darn good job at exposing the retro-hip vibe pulsating through the Queen City.

Buffalo's downtown and surrounding neighbourhoods in Allentown, Elmwood Village and Delaware Park are incredible. A huge surge in downtown loft and condo projects is currently underway, and unlike the underwhelming design and architecture we're seeing in Hamilton, Buffalo is doing a great job at building projects that convey a cool, hip image to visitors and potential investors.

Hamilton would be wise to send Council on a weekend trip to Buffalo and pay close attention to all the little things being done to turn that city around.

Similar to Hamilton, the residential neighbourhoods surrounding the core are the best in the city. The biggest difference in Buffalo is that streets remain safe and enjoyable for people, not cars and trucks.

Funky cafes, bookstores and clothing shops line quaint urban streets and are tucked into residential areas similar to many downtown neighbourhoods I enjoyed when I lived in Portland.

Hamilton has essentially killed any chance of seeing our urban neighbourhoods filled with such great business and flair by ensuring that every major street remains a highway.

Perhaps in a few decades when the younger generation fills the offices and council seats at City Hall, we'll see this change, but in the meantime, hop in your car and head for the border the next time you're hankering to get out of town.

Downtown Hamilton to the Towne Diner on Elmwood Ave is exactly 1 hour. You might never go back to TO once you discover the charm and unpretentious vibes in Buffalo.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.


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By statius (registered) | Posted January 10, 2008 at 15:05:54

I haven't visited Buffalo in years and have always been surprised at the city's sorry state. I didn't know it was enjoying such a reversal of fortune until I saw the article you reference above. If indeed Buffalo is in the process of a resurgence, I do think it is precisely the sort of city that Hamilton should be studying. While Buffalo's architectural heritage is considerably richer than Hamilton's, I think it is (in large part) the presence of older, urban architecture, and higher density cores which will allow both of these cities to attract the sort of people who find the anonymous expanses of the Erie County suburbs, Mississauga, Brampton, etc. alienating and unliveable. Further, although Ryan might carp at this, I commend Buffalo for approving buildings which as you say "convey a cool, hip image". I think a key element in the resurgence of just about any major city is the ability to communicate confidence through new architecture.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted January 10, 2008 at 20:47:47

You're not alone, Jason. I've always loved Buffalo. People laugh at me when I call it "mini-Chicago", but that's exactly what it is. I used to live in Niagara so I spent alot of time in Buffalo lurking in the shrubbery and peering in the windows of the Darwin D. Martin House before they started the renos, hanging out at the Albright Knox, and walking around the truly jaw-dropping Psychiatric Hospital, now abandoned, by H.H.Richardson (on hospital grounds designed by Olmstead!). The Psychiatric Hospital alone is worth the trip. Also cool is Forest Lawn Cemetery near the Albright-Knox, and at least 5 Frank Lloyd Wright houses including the beautifully restored Martin House. I could go on and on, but I'll leave it there.

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