Tag Archives: cultural tourism; cultural districts

The City of Architecture: Buffalo

Find the essence of place, and build on it. There’s no better summation of this cultural planning truth than the attached video on Buffalo. And there are few cities where so many groups have come together – CVB, economic development, business leaders, elected officials, neighborhood groups, arts and cultural organizations, even pro sports franchises – to redefine their city for future generations around architecture, art, and design.

Ed Healy – an incredible marketer and champion of Buffalo who heads the CVB’s marketing department – has for years believed that Buffalo’s legacy of breathtaking architecture – its magnificent necklace of parks with contemporary and historic public art, and its commitment to preservation evidenced by its multiple culturally vibrant residential neighborhoods and authentic cultural districts – make Buffalo as singular an attraction as its nearby natural wonder, Niagara Falls.

Having had the joy of working with Ed and so many others in shaping this theme of architecture, arts, and design into a winning cultural tourism strategy that has truly taken off over the past five years, I know first hand that this city I call “The American Story ” is rapidly growing into a major international cultural tourism destination.

The aim of the video is to promote Buffalo as the location for next year’s National Trust for Historic Preservation annual conference location. It tells its own story: the residents of this great city have geared up like never before to show the world their pride in place – their architecture, their art, and the great culture that is Buffalo. Every building, every block, every cultural organization, every garden, every sidewalk: this is a city determined to show its cultural greatness.

Anyone looking for a case study in redefining a sleeper city into a culturally shining star need look no further. Go to Buffalo.

Cultural Districts: Creating A String of Pearls

I’ve had the pleasure of counseling cities throughout the US and Canada on creating vibrant cultural districts that go on to become exciting and economically successful hubs. Here’s my list of elements of success.

Authentic to Location. Simply put, a cultural district is the antithesis of a “town centre development” that looks like every other urban shopping area in America.
Identity, known for “something unique.”
Cultural Inclusive and culturally diverse. Don’t limit definition of art, entertainment, or culture.
Started Small. Made a density difference, and grew organically as the market demand expanded.
Right-sized. Not too big. 14 blocks.
Critical mass of activity, 24/7.
Diverse offerings.
Connective Tissue: Space-making sculpture, beacon-lights, outdoor vendors,
murals, small touches. Make the grand intimate. Human scale.
Branded and marketed as a cultural destination.
Visible art.
Economic incentives. Loans. Investment strategies.
Strengthened arts organizations to operate
successful venues.
Artists at the center. Work space. Live space.
Vibrant role for arts education within the district. All ages.
Great partnerships. Civic. Cultural. Educational. Philanthropic. Business and entrepreneurial.
Mixed Use.
Box Office.
Green Spaces.

Looking for good examples of this approach? I’m proudest of the City of Indianapolis’ strategies and programs for cultural district development. Through a true bottom-up process, six distinctive and unique districts were shaped, supported, and thrive. Go to culturalindy.org
Check them out.