Community Gathers at BUFF Event to Discuss the Future of Niagara Street

  • June 4, 2018

Buffalo Urban Futures Forum: The Future of Buffalo’s Niagara Street Corridor

  • 05/30/2018 - 05/30/2018

BUFF Take 2: A Celebration of Creative Cultures at The Martin Group

  • February 1, 2018
  • Author: Michael Tunkey

Creative energy inspires me. It always has, always will. So, moderating our second Buffalo Urban Futures Forum event at The Martin Group’s new workplace in December proved remarkably inspiring, as it brought together some of the leading creatives voices in the City of Buffalo. Panelists included:

  • Tod Martin, President & Chief Creative Officer at The Martin Group
  • Dana Marciniak, Director of PR and Brand Communications for New Era Cap
  • Aaron Ott, Curator of Public Art for the Albright-Knox Art Gallery

Through our discussion, we explored three key themes: The importance of place, what it means to stay creatively relevant and finally where our city’s collective creative energy is headed. Each panelist shared their unique perspective on these topics.

  • Dana spoke passionately about New Era’s long history in the city, from its early days on Genesee Street to its current global headquarters on Delaware. Ave. She highlighted how the company has evolved from a company that designs and creates hats, to a renowned global brand and cultural icon. Crossing everything from global business expansion to Spike Lee and Chance the Rapper, Dana revealed how New Era is positioned to lead our city’s creative charge moving forward.
  • Sitting in his company’s new workplace, Tod talked about the importance of planting a flag on Buffalo’s Main Street and in the heart of its theater district. He highlighted how the space empowers employees and also how it increases the The Martin Group’s civic visibility. Beyond fueling his own company’s creative culture, The Martin Group must constantly innovate to help leading companies evolve and reposition their brand for greater success.
  • As the first ever Curator of Public Art for the Albright-Knox, Aaron Ott talked about how public art can help channel a community’s identify and passion. He also addressed how public art helps bring museums into the community, opening their doors and connecting with neighborhoods, even talking about the success of Shantell Martin’s Dance Every Day piece.

The group also had the opportunity to share their vision of what’s next for Buffalo, with ideas ranging from improved education, attracting breakthrough companies to the city, renewed investment in public transit, and new engagement around Buffalo’s art and design culture.

The event inspired me and hopefully many of the 100+ attendees who joined us in The Martin Group’s new space downtown. I’ve included several photos from the event below. We’re already looking forward to our 2018 Buffalo Urban Futures Forum events.

Three Ways Cities Could Evolve in 2018

  • January 9, 2018
  • Author: Michael Tunkey

During the final months of 2017, I had the chance to attend the Urban Land Institute’s (ULI) 2017 Fall meeting in Los Angeles and subsequently share four exciting takeaways from the event. With a bit of downtime during the holidays, I revisited those initial takeaways and my notes from the ULI conference. Numerous other conference sessions introduced urban design and real estate strategies that I expect to resonate in 2018, and I wanted to share them as we head into the New Year. Below are brief summaries of three emerging realities that will affect our cities in 2018:

A “Golden Hour” for Gentrification
One of the most inspired ideas shared during ULI’s 2017 Fall Show came from PolicyLink CEO Angela Glover Blackwell who talked about the need to preserve ‘golden hours’ of gentrification globally. Through data and real-world examples, Angela explained a phenomenon her team is witnessing when longtime underserved communities begin to experience gentrification. For this brief moment of initial exposure, these underserved neighborhoods closely mirror our ideal vision for an equitable society, with true diversity of cultures and incomes.

Unfortunately, this period of equity is usually short-lived as the residents who lived through the previous “bad years” get pushed out in the “good years.” Angela talked about her team at PolicyLink is focused on preserving this transitionary moment by creating and implementing policies to create sustainable communities of opportunity. She explained that while these types of policies directly help disadvantaged people in a community, they benefit everyone. To prove her point, she highlighted how sidewalk curb cuts mandated by the American Disabilities Act to give access to wheelchairs, also benefit every parent pushing a stroller or traveler hauling a suitcase. Her conclusion – “equity is a superior growth model” and one that will hopefully be advanced in cities more aggressively in 2018.

The Future of Residential Might be Boarding Houses and Penthouses
One common theme at the ULI show that will be loudly hear in 2018 is the impact of millennials on real estate. A fascinating discussion on this topic emerged during a presentation from Podshare Founder Elvina Beck and Proper Hospitality President and CoFounder Brian De Lowe. The two shared looks at projects from divergent ends of the residential spectrum, but then highlighted how millennials’ preferences commonly impact them.

On the surface, the two projects discussed could not appear more different. Hollywood Proper Residence is an ultra-chic, super luxury residential project with a novel mix of condominiums and fully furnished rental apartments. It’s target consumers are Los Angeles upper-echelon entertainment figures in need of a short-term apartment. Podshare, a membership-based live/work community, takes advantage of archaic city zoning to create contemporary “boarding houses.” The $50 per night cost and location flexibility appeals to the other end of LA’s entertainment spectrum – the newly arrived, aspiring artist. While these properties obviously function at the opposite ends of the price-point spectrum, their developers take a surprisingly similar approach to their Millennial-based clientele. Both Hollywood Proper Residence and Podshare merge hospitality and housing to create highly-amenitized, extremely social, living communities that speaks to Millennials desire for “experiences.”

Beyond just presenting radical approaches to luring Millennial residents, the two projects might also represent a vision for the short-term future of our country’s increasingly expensive gateway cities and the ever-widening chasm between economic winners and losers. A cities of boarding houses and penthouses? Maybe it seems plausible when you take a look at LA rental prices and consider these emerging residential products.

Image of Podshare

Autonomous Vehicles and their Ethical Dilemmas
There seems to be widespread consensus that autonomous vehicles will radically transform our cities in the coming decade, but – to my knowledge – Professor Azim Shariff is one of the few people who has thought deeply about who these self-driving cars will choose to murder. It turns out that this is not only a tricky ethical parlor game, it’s relevant to real world engineering decisions being filed in Patents and entered into equations today.

To understand the nature of these decisions (while also helping the continued research on the topic), spend 5 minutes playing this super-creepy video game survey: Moral Machine. Who should die, one driver, two law-abiding business executives, or four jaywalking students? It turns out the answers to these questions vary widely across cultures. One’s inclination to purchase an autonomous vehicle in the futures also weighs heavily.

Image of Moral Machine

Moral Machine is creepy, but tackling these hard ethical questions head-on (excuse the pun) may very well be the solution to a safer, more comfortable future for everyone who uses our city street and sidewalks. If autonomous vehicles are coming, we need to invest in making them as safe and ethical as possible.

Cities change constantly, but given the numerous disruptive factors spanning technology, policy, climate and more that will impact 2018 – it could prove to be a year of dynamic change for our urban fabric.

Four Exciting Takeaways from Urban Land Institute’s 2017 Fall Show

  • November 9, 2017
  • Author: Michael Tunkey

I recently had the exciting opportunity to attend the Urban Land Institute’s (ULI) 2017 Fall Meeting in Los Angeles. If you’re unfamiliar, ULI is an organization that brings together thought leaders from every sector of the real estate industry to share ideas, best practices and lessons learned from projects across the world. I’ve been able to attend numerous ULI events during my career and they never fail to inspire.

This year’s event in LA brought together more than 6,000 people to address topics ranging from creating spaces for equity to rethinking how we approach urban housing projects and even keynotes from Frank Gehry and Magic Johnson. There was a lot to take in and learn, and I’ve tried to summarize four key sessions and ideas that stood out to me from the conference.

Housing Innovation: Function Over Form

For those who follow housing development trends, it can often seem like a mildly superficial discussion with style, finish and amenities always dominating the discussion. Fortunately, this session at ULI 2017 focused on function over form, presenting a series of innovative housing projects relative to The MAYA – most-advanced-yet-acceptable – principle. Of the many projects the panel scored, four that resonated most with me included

  • Black Apple Communities, Bentonville, AR – This project features small, detached houses with generous communal space and minimal parking. It’s located near the Crystal Bridges museum and within biking distance to a walkable main street – all adding up to make it an attractive concept for other edge neighborhoods.

Joe Wittkop Photography

  • 28 Grand, Detroit, MI – With its prime location, design and amenities, 28 Grand proves high-end micro apartments are a viable model in markets well beyond New York. This project also demonstrates an unmet market that seemed to be on everyone’s mind at this year’s ULI event: cool, urban rental units.
  • CLEO at Playa Vista, CA – In real estate (and life), when you are not talking about Millennials you are probably talking about Boomers. How do you encourage this generation to leave single-family homes and live in more communal housing. This project is tackling that challenge, and to understand its intelligence, you need to study its plans. Each of CLEO’s level is an individual “flat,” compressing a 3-bedroom house onto a single story with covered parking and elevator access.
  • Common Baltic, Brooklyn, NY – Three words: Brooklyn, co-living, cool. The step between a dorm room and your own apartment is an increasingly intimidating prospect – particularly in the most attractive housing markets. This hybrid model creates efficiency through density of units, while also providing for greater community…as long as your roommate does their dishes.

Photo: Common Baltic

Materials Scientists are the New Architects

This session introduced me to Matt Johnson’s company Bare Conductive, a company that offers an exciting peek toward the future of our built environments. A paint company with just one color (black) to choose from at first glance, Bare Conductive is actually a material science and technology company uniquely combining the material innovation of a company like 3M with the consumer accessibility of Apple’s App Store. The company is driving us toward a future where many of our basic building elements are embedded – at the material level – with the capacity to be ultra-precise and widely distributed. For example, imagine being able to touch any piece of a wall to turn on the lights or a floor that tracks and reacts to your every footfall. These possible breakthrough products give new meaning to the term “building skin.”

Even more interesting, Bare Collective’s business model is rooted in an open-source philosophy that actively encourages industrial clients, artists, designers, artisans and crafters to give their technology a whirl – yes, you can even find them on Etsy.

Photo: Bare Conductive

Richard Florida’s Faith in the City is Being Tested

Renowned urbanist and author Richard Florida will always be a rock star at any urban-focused conference. His influential work “The Rise of the Creative Class” mesmerized policy and urban wonks at the beginning of the millennium with a largely optimistic post-industrial city that creates tremendous societal value not through factories and steel mills, but through creative innovation.

Florida memorably describes this cosmopolitan power of cities to create wealth through the 3Ts: talent, tolerance and technology. But, the recent global social and political backlash to economic inequality – taking place in almost every major developed country – has caused Florida to look more critically at the “winter-takes-all” urbanism of this new economy. His new book introduces a system where few people in a handful of cities have unequal access to wealth. While Florida offers some potential solutions for this challenge, his book’s value as a data-based diagnostic assessment makes it a must-read for designers, politicians and everyday citizens. Hearing him share his thoughts in person was informative and thought-provoking.

The Coolest Places to Work Maybe Telephone Booths and Treehouses

Here’s all you need to know to be excited about the future of the workplace – you are probably not getting an office, but – on the bright side – you might get a telephone booth or even a treehouse. Not surprisingly, the topic of the “future of the workplace” is too complex for one single post (I’ll dedicate a full post to this in the near future) but, it is worth noting the trend toward “free address” office spaces coming to every market.

That doesn’t mean our future workplaces will be 100% totally open, frenetic, collaborative and undifferentiated. On the contrary, this panel all seemed to agree with Generation Z and their very real preference for privacy over transparency and scheduled collaboration over constant team interaction. So while people may not have private offices in the future, they may have increased opportunities to find privacy, connect with nature and move between different scales of spaces. This desire for more niche spaces within the workplace drives the high demands at WeWork for their “telephone booth” spaces, and also explains IBM’s recent addition of treehouses at their Redmond campus.

Truthfully, there were a dozen more interesting ideas I found at ULI’s 2017 fall conference (I’ll probably write another post or two about the event before 2017 becomes 2018). Year in and year out, it proves to be a barometer for the real estate industry and a cutting-edge glimpse at how our built environment evolves.

Next City Praises Buffalo Urban Futures Forum and City’s Enthusiastic Resurgence

  • September 23, 2017
  • Publication: Next City

Buffalo News Asks Mike Tunkey, “What’s Next for Buffalo’s Architecture?”

  • July 27, 2017
  • Publication: The Buffalo News

Positive Energy & Excitement: Buffalo Urban Futures Forum Sets Tone for City’s Future

  • July 25, 2017
  • Author: Michael Tunkey

The inaugural Buffalo Urban Futures Forum proved a success last Thursday at Buffalo’s famed Albright-Knox Art Gallery. 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 >

Buffalo Urban Futures Forum 2017

  • 07/20/2017 - 07/20/2017