The power of incremental change

We are all excited by the site of cranes and subsequent construction that’s transforming the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and Canalside. Both projects are bold, revolutionary changes for our region which seem to be changing our landscape on a daily basis.

cranes downtownBut sometimes change is more subtle.

Author, Lauren Belfer wrote a Buffalo News article “Seeing the City in a New light after years away – Belfer barely recognizes the Buffalo of her childhood.

Her 2011 story talked about the vast improvements she saw since the late ’60s/early ’70s. (PSST Lauren, you wouldn’t recognize Buffalo a mere three years later!)

Many of our region’s most impactful transformations are coming about through incremental change — the kind of change you don’t notice unless you really look. (Or return to Buffalo after years of living elsewhere.)

Last week, while driving down Parkside Avenue past the Buffalo Zoo’s new welcoming entry, I started thinking about how much has changed — not just the Zoo itself, but Delaware Park, the Parkside neighborhood and the abutting Hertel Avenue district.

It’s all fresher, newer and better than I can ever remember.

Not a crane in sight, these changes came about with steadfast and excellent leadership, and a community of individuals committed to bettering the area.

may 23 larger buffalo zoo
Before (left) and after shot of the Buffalo Zoo entrance. Photo credit: Mike Powers

It got me thinking about the power of incremental change.

The Zoo’s steady transformation is a great example; strong leadership from both President Donna Fernandes and Thomas Mischler of the Olmstead Park Conservancy, combined with efforts of passionate volunteers that donated time and money to make it happen.

The transformation of the Park(s) and the Zoo didn’t happen overnight; it came from the vision and commitment to make those places better over time, combined with the tenacity and resilience to see the projects through.

The Darwin Martin House, the Roycroft Campus, the Museum of Science, the Buffalo History Museum and Graycliff are just a few other landmarks that have radically transformed themselves using the same model.

The same can be said of many neighborhood revitalization projects from the West Side to North Buffalo, and let’s not forget the 800 block of Main Street!

may 23 before and after granite works
Before (left) and after shot of Granite works, 846 Main Street. Photo credit: Benjamin Obletz

I sometimes get frustrated waiting for the empty buildings in downtown Buffalo to come back to life. I want things to move faster – to get it all done. But I know change is coming; the Planing Mill project, the Tishman Building, and the Fairmont Creamery are well on their way… and many more are behind them.

The Mayor’s goal of 1,300 new downtown housing units (Buffalo Building Reuse Project) got one step closer to realization when another $1,000,000 was added into the loan fund.

Similarly, Mayor Brown’s green code and complete streets programs are serving to transform the city forever, and for better. These two projects alone will play a big role in transforming Buffalo into a more sustainable and pedestrian-friendly city.

So, I invite you to open your eyes to see the subtle changes and recognize our progress. Then, roll up your sleeves and figure out what incremental role you can play in the renaissance of our great region!

Dottie Gallagher Headshot

About Dottie Gallagher

President & CEO