The inaugural Buffalo Urban Futures Forum proved a success last Thursday at Buffalo’s famed Buffalo AKG Art Museum. The event brought together local leaders key to Buffalo’s recent resurgence to take part in a panel discussion about what comes next regarding urban development, infrastructure investment, sustainability and innovation for the city. We were proud to host the event in partnership with Next City, an international organization focused on inspiring better cities. Beyond the panelists, more than 200 attendees from standout Buffalo organizations attended to listen, contribute to the conversation, and think big about Buffalo’s future. A video of the event can be viewed on our Facebook page along with a photo gallery.

The full list of presenters and panelists, included:

  • Welcoming remarks from Michael Tunkey, Principal at CannonDesign
  • Keynote presentation from Tom Dallessio, President, CEO & Publisher of Next City
  • Panel discussion and Q&A, featuring:
  • Frank Cravotta, Executive VP of Creative Services for Pegula Sports & Entertainment Group
  • Tom Dee, President at Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation
  • Rahwa Ghirmatzion, Director of Programs for PUSH Buffalo
  • Bill Maggio, Partner at Lorraine Capital and Chairman of 43North
  • Kelly Hayes McAlonie, Director of Capital Planning at SUNY Buffalo
  • Eileen Morgan, Chief Human Resources Officer for Delaware North
  • Moderated by Meg Osman, Executive Director of Corporate/Commercial at CannonDesign

The discussion focused on bringing a strong cross-section of leaders from Buffalo’s strongest businesses, institutions and non-profits to think boldly about how the city can capitalize on its recent resurgence for an even brighter future. Here are highlights from the discussion:

Tom Dee on a vision for the city’s waterfront
“Our vision was established – to revitalize the waterfront and restore economic development. For us, it was all about public access. We have this great waterfront, and it’s so totally underdeveloped and we’re still in our infancy for what we’re doing. When we think about public access as our #1 guiding principle, nothing happens until we ensure the public that we get public access to the water’s edge. That’s number one. Number two is things to do. And, we’ve changed and transformed what you can do at the water’s edge. Over the next decade, I’d love to see our waterfront become known as one of the best in the world.”

Kelly Hayes McAlonie on being audacious with design
“I spend a lot of time studying Buffalo between 1880 to 1910 and in that time, Buffalo brought in the very best architects in the world: Daniel Burnham, Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright and I’m just going to ask you – what top tier architects are we bringing in now? We want and expect to be a top-tier city and I think we once again should be audacious. We should celebrate design the way we did 120 years ago.”

Rahwa Ghirmatzion on investing in existing neighborhoods
“What we really need to look at as we’re having these conversations is how do we strategically and intentionally invest in (all our) communities and in (all our) youth, and in those sort of older, disadvantaged workers to make sure we’re upscaling them and training them in productive ways that will pay them family sustaining wages. We need to do more of that. It needs to be serious and intentional and it needs to be now.”

Frank Cravotta on the power of local talent
“We’ve brought in a lot of national talent for some of our projects, but with our recent effort at 79 Perry Street we looked local and I would say unequivocally that the local talent is excellent and we’re excited to move forward in that direction. We’re having a lot of fun with our new projects and we like it even more because we’re partnering with our neighbors.”

Eileen Morgan on recruiting talent to Buffalo
“Buffalo is a great place to recruit from. Telling the Buffalo story is less and less of a challenge every week and every day. The resurgence has just been amazing – it’s really about building awareness about all the city has to offer. Because, when we recruit people into our roles, they bring their families. They’re living here, they’re working here – it’s not just about the job opportunity. It’s about schools, entertainment, sports – it’s critical we recognize we’re all invested in the city’s future together.”

Bill Maggio on igniting Buffalo’s start-up scene
“The evolution of everything that’s happening in Buffalo is making it easy for 43North to bring companies here. Having people come to Buffalo is the least of their concerns. Their concerns revolve around raising money, advancing their discoveries, mentorship…What we need is mentorship and so what 43North is doing is going outside Western New York and we’re convincing people who had a connection to Buffalo to come back and mentor these young companies. Mentorship is critically important for us to achieve transformation.”

Our team at CannonDesign is thrilled with the inaugural Buffalo Urban Futures Forum. We see the optimistic conversation as a launch point for more events and new momentum around a brighter future for Buffalo.

Watch the inaugural Buffalo Urban Futures Forum >