Is Fruit Belt losing its identity to new development?

Oct 11, 2016

"Gentrification" is a word we may hear, but what does it mean for neighborhood residents impacted by it? That is what residents of Buffalo's Fruit Belt want to find out, as they begin a "broad brush" study of the East Side neighborhood, its history and how new development may be chipping away at its unique identity.

The McCarley Gardens Housing Task Force has received nearly $3,000 in funds from the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, Preservation Buffalo Niagara, Senator Tim Kennedy and Congressman Brian Higgins to collect the data on which future development decisions can be based.

Among the features to be studied will be neighborhood architecture, walkability and overall street-level urban fabric. Task Force Founder Veronica Nichols said Preservation Studios has been retained to conduct the study.

McCarley Gardens Housing Task Force Founder Veronica Nichols accepts one of several checks to fund a study of the Fruit Belt neighborhood.
Credit WBFO's Michael Mroziak

"There are several, I would say, historical structures that were built around the time of the Civil War era that we are trying to preserve at this time, "said Nichols. "Many of them have already been leveled by the city in order to make the neighborhood shovel ready for developers."

Nichols said residents have been voicing concerns about losing their neighborhood identity for years to City Hall, but those concerns have fallen on deaf ears. However, she said the Fillmore District has been successful preserving landmarks and she would like to see that in her district.

"Right now we're not even factored in to the development process. One of the things I find most striking is that over 30 years ago, the Department of Strategic Planning renamed the Fruit Belt Medical Park and that is disturbing on so many levels," said Nichols "because my premise is this: once you take away our identity, you plan to take away everything. So yes, there is a sense of urgency."

Nichols said more information about increasing gentrification and the study will be shared at a public meeting October 19th at 5:30 p.m. at the Moot Senior Citizens Center on High Street.