The Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) annual conference in Buffalo in 2014 included several events at Larkin Square. The conference helped put Buffalo on the Rust Belt chic map. The organization's website now features A former industrial superblock pumps life into the city, an extensive article about Larkin Square and how it rose out of the ashes of one of Buffalo's original neighborhoods.
"Our design challenge was to transform a railroad-era industrial superblock into humanized, smaller, multi-use blocks that were knit together by pedestrian-priority circulation paths," says Tim Tielman, principal with The Neighborhood Workshop LLC.
"Six buildings remain from the area’s manufacturing heyday, including the Larkin Center of Commerce, 1.3 million square feet under one roof and the second biggest building of its kind in the state. More than $2 million in streetscape improvements have added new sidewalks, trees, street furniture, lighting, bus shelters, and other improvements, according to the University of Buffalo."
The physical transformation of this space, accomplished using primarily private investment rather than massive public monies, has been remarkable. "Over the past decade, the Larkin District in Buffalo, New York, has evolved from an abandoned industrial site to a thriving, mixed-use urban district that is spurring revitalization for blocks in every direction."
But I believe that the true magic of Larkin Square is that it is now a destination. Using the tried and true principles of placemaking, as espoused by the Project for Public Spaces, "Director of Fun" Leslie Zemsky has made this happen. "Larkin Square hosts a series of popular events like Live at Larkin music series, the outdoor Larkin Market, Food Truck Tuesdays, an Author Series, and other events. Games include "pickleball" courts—a cross between tennis, racquetball, ping-pong, and badminton—and shuffleboard" and now Larkin Links. The sheer number of events, not to mention how well organized and well attended they are, is the result of a great deal of hard work.
This article does not add a great deal of insight into what we in Buffalo already know about Larkin Square, but its placement on CNU.org showcases this extreme makeover for a very important demographic, and it does it well.
Kudos to Howard and Leslie Zemsky for their vision, their dedication and their exemplary implementation. Larkin Square is fabulous year round.