Niagara Gazette

February 24, 2013

March 9 event will focus on ways to restore Main Street to its former glory

By Justin Sondel
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Imagine Main Street bustling with people visiting shops, restaurants and art galleries.

That is what a group of young city dwellers are inviting Falls residents to do at an event they have organized.

Matt Green and Tom Lowe have put together the Main Street Symposium which offers lectures, walking tours and demonstrations meant to help people imagine the potential that Main Street has. The March 9 event will take place in several locations along Main Street’s north end and will run through the better part of the afternoon.

The speakers featured come from near and far. Chuck D’Aprix, president of the Downtown Entrepreneurship Project based in Washington, D.C., and Mike Lyndon of the Street Plans Collaborative — he has worked in cities like Miami and New York — will share ideas that have worked to leverage little money into big results in other cities.

Bernice Radle, a member of Buffalo’s Young Preservationists, will speak about her organization’s work in Buffalo. Landscape architect Joy Kuebler will also give a lecture on “pop up parks”.

Green said that many of the ideas to be discussed will involve low-cost methods to turn unused space into positives for the blighted streets.

Seth Piccirillo, the city’s director of community development, will give the final presentation of the day, speaking on strategies for preventing and dealing with vacant properties.

For example, vacant lots can be turned into pocket parks, giving the neighborhood a renewed beauty that will have a spin-off effect for the rest of the neighborhood.

“I think this could be a chance to do some smaller things that will have a larger impact,” Green said.

Green, 22, grew up on 22nd Street off of Main Street. He is a senior at the University at Buffalo working toward a bachelor’s degree in urban planning. His experiences in Niagara Falls and his education have inspired him to work toward restoring his hometown to its former glory.

“It’s what I feel that I’m called to do,” he said.

Lowe, who is a program coordinator with Niagara University’s community outreach arm ReNU Niagara, said he and Green hope to get people talking, networking and formulating ideas at the symposium.

Lowe emphasized that he helped organize the event on his own time, not in his duties with ReNU Niagara, because he feels so strongly that these types of events could work to get people involved in reclaiming and reshaping their city.

After the lectures and walking tours there will be a networking session with refreshments and the Black Market food truck where participants will be encouraged to discuss what they have seen and heard and bounce ideas off of one another.

“It’s a real casual way for people to share ideas while working toward an actionable goal,” Lowe said.

with mug -- NIA Piccirillo mug 022413 Seth Piccirillo Speaking at event