UB News Release March 2012 Regional Economic Development Lawschool Course
News ReleaseStudents Develop Economic Revival Plans forBuffalo NeighborhoodsUB Law Professor John Schlegel teaches a course where students prepare economicdevelopment plans for Buffalo neighborhoods.ContactCharles Anzaloneanzalon@buffalo.edu716-645-4600Release Date: March 22, 2012BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Dont tell the students in the University at Buffalo Law Schools RegionalEconomic Development class the next big idea to revive Western New York communities isntsitting in plain sight -- complete with reader-friendly illustrations.That goal -- bringing fresh economic development ideas to neighborhoods that need a boost--was the brainchild of the late UB President William R. Greiner. Over time, he recruited UB LawSchool Professor John H. Schlegel and two top community development players to teach in thecourse. The challenge was to create an innovative cross-disciplinary course -- RegionalEconomic Development -- intended to give law students practical experience in the subject, witha distinctive emphasis: bringing visualization to the legal debate.At the same time, the course would let students attempt to identify a real need in the community,apply the theory learned in the classroom and then design a plan that would address this need.Recently, the Regional Economic Development course added one more component. The lawstudents would work with students in UBs School of Architecture and Planning to give theprojects what its instructor called a three-dimensional element, a quality that gives those lookingat the proposals the opportunity to visualize what the actual project would look like far beyondthe normal two-dimensional map-making.
"Its the old line from The Music Man." Youve got to know the territory," says Schlegel, whotook charge of the course after Greiner died in 2009. "You have to be able to see the site in theneighborhood. Seeing it will help you understand whether the local people will either embrace aproject or reject it. And that will make the lawyers role more clear."The 14 students taking the course last semester produced five projects, which they presented thissemester. Essential to their proposals was making them as visually interesting as possible. Andthats where students of Mitchell Bring -- an architect and specialist in computer visualizationand model-building, and an adjunct professor in UBs School of Architecture and Planning -- gotinvolved.Brings students worked with the law students to add "3-D visualization" to the projects."In the real world, lawyers are teamed up with urban planners and architects working withdevelopers," Bring said. "This gives the students a great opportunity to combine all their talentsand abilities."Bring says those designing the course wanted to get the students and those reviewing the projectsthe ability "see the environment they were talking about."Schlegel had the benefit of sharing the teaching with two people recruited earlier by Greiner,people who clearly could bridge the gap between academic courses and real-world application:Richard Tobe, recently appointed Erie County deputy county executive, and James J. Allen,executive director of the Amherst Industrial Development Agency and an adjunct professor inthe UB Department of Urban and Regional Planning.The result were five student projects -- all grounded in urban planning principles they studied inclass -- designed to address and fundamentally change a shortcoming in five Buffaloneighborhoods.* "The "Heights Plaza" Proposal by Daniel Fabian, Joel Terragnoli, with Gun Hyoung Kim.Their plan to revitalize the University Heights neighborhood and the Lasalle Streetneighborhood, includes a "virtual walk" around the neighborhood that provides a "birds eyeview" of the changes in streets and amenities the students propose.* "Railroad Renaissance: An Urbane North Buffalo Community" by Michael Cimasi,ShervinRismani and Jeffrey Tyrpak, with Theresa DeCelis and Meng Yu. This project proposes a new"pedestrian friendly yet auto accessible" environment for the vacant Erie-Lackawanna Railroadcorridor in North Buffalo between Delaware and Colvin avenues.* "Encouraging Social and Economic Growth in Kenmores Delaware Avenue Business District"by Michael Herberger, Ryan McCarthy and Jacob McNamara, with Elnaz Haj Abotalebi. Thestudents proposed changes include a gateway and pedestrian-exclusive zones in the heart of theVillage of Kenmore.
* "The Rock: A look at Buffalos Black Rock Neighborhood Through the Eyes of Jane Jacobs"by Christina Akers, David Burgess and Megan VanWie with Troy Joseph. The studentsrecommend short-term improvements: street lights, public benches and beautification projects;along with longer-term changes such as a pedestrian bridge.* West Utica Street Triangle by Gretchen Sullivan and Christopher Szczygiel, with Zhaoyu Luo.The proposal suggests a "micro-loan" fund for residents limited to $1,000 each, a communityland trust and specific changes such as an ethnic community kitchen, a community gym and anice skating rink.In-depth descriptions and visuals for all five projects are available upon request."The university values cross-disciplinary teaching and research," Schlegel said. "Our approachmay be a little odd, but it works. These law students will come out this better lawyers, especiallythose who will be doing development work."