Attending CNU22 in Buffalo was for me a combination of therapy and inspiration. Therapy to simply be around like-minded urbanists for a few days, comparing notes and recovering from the real world. It was also inspiration, both hearing colleagues speak about successful cities around the world and transforming Buffalo itself, even if it was just temporary.
Why Buffalo? The City was once one of the prominent cities in the United States. Much has changed, but Buffalo certainly hasn’t given up. They have a new form-based code and a lot of initiatives to move past being just another down-on-its-luck rust belt city. The Buffalo Rising encapsulates the new energy of the city. And yet, Buffalo has great bones, and some wonderful historic buildings including City Hall, below.
Downtown has some lovely public spaces, like Lafayette Square.
The beautiful and recently renovated Lafayette Hotel was home to a number of CNU Next Gen events.
The first evening was marked by an appearance by Peatonito, the pedestrian superhero, followed by a pub crawl.
Buffalo has a long history with the grain elevator, and so the Thursday evening at CNU 22 event was at Silo City. I liken Silo City to a pop-up park in an industrial area of old abandoned grain elevators. A somewhat protected area between silos provided the setting for a stage and PA system, a DJ, food trucks, local beer, and tours of abandoned grain elevators. We were allowed to simply wander through these mysterious old buildings. A climbing wall is planned in one of them. It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in my life.
No recent Congress is complete without a Tactical Urbanism/Better Block event. CNU 22 didn’t disappoint. We shut down half of Washington Street in front of the Pan-American for lawn bowling, urban discussions and general carousing.
There was live music and even tango lessons.
Later that evening was the annual Placeshakers dance party, led by Hazel Borys, on the rooftop of the SoHo, with a nice view.
Following the first annual CNU Next Gen Kickball game, the closing night party was held at Larkin Square, a recently created public square, park and event space, and dare I say, a model for cities everywhere.
Future posts will discuss speakers, sessions, initiatives and other stuff of substance. But hopefully this provides an idea of how absolutely cool attending CNU can be. We don’t just sit in the echo chamber of the convention center (there is plenty of that to be sure!). We get out in the city to experience it, measure it, feel it, transform it, and sometimes just lie down in it. Join us next year for CNU 23 in Dallas/Fort Worth on April 29-May 2, 2015.
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