By Tom Lowe and Matt Green
Niagara Gazette — We have to start by sincerely thanking all of the participants, supporters, sites and anyone else that contributed to the success of the Main Street Symposium on March 9.
One hundred participants came out on a beautiful March afternoon to share, discuss, and strategize ways to breathe life back into Main Street and Niagara Falls. The event brought together younger residents along with their energy, vision and drive — with veteran residents who brought experience, knowledge and an energy and vision of their own. It brought together people from throughout the region, bridging the perceived gap between Buffalo and Niagara Falls. It brought together both local and national experts, in fields related to economic development, to not only share their ideas but to listen to the ideas of others and to provide constructive feedback.
We had over four hours of positive and constructive conversation. The event was not political, and everyone’s opinion held equal value. The real work started the minute the symposium ended. Now it’s time for action. It’s time for those people who came ready-for-change to make it happen. And, as we found out during the symposium, it doesn’t take a multi-million dollar economic development project to constitute change. For many years, Niagara Falls has had its fair share of impressive renderings from master developers that are never carried out. Instead of just talking about what could be, we are focused on a neighborhood building strategy, block by block, and finding ways to help give vacant lots and storefronts a second life. That strategy is what the Main Street Symposium was all about.
Yes, there were many “young people” in attendance at the symposium, including us, and we all received tremendous support during and since the event. But, to be extra clear, we are not children’with a naive view of the world, as the term “young” may suggest. We are current and future homeowners, taxpayers and investors in our community. We want Niagara Falls to succeed because we are setting up our roots here. We are in it for the long haul. We ignore statements like “ideas do not mean anything” or “this is Niagara Falls and things will never change” because that type of thinking is self destructive. Negativity, division and petty politics will never create jobs, make our streets look better, or get our young people to build their lives here.
One of the most important lessons learned from the symposium is that individuals, from within the city limits and beyond, are ready to challenge the status quo. Residents, both young and old, are ready to take the reins to see their vision through. Despite obvious challenges, there is momentum building every day. Residents are ready because this is our city, our Niagara Falls and we look forward to our new future.Tom Lowe and Matt Green are both Niagara Falls residents.