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June 15, 2008

« Olympic Edge | Main | The Shape of Things to Come »

Here's my piece in today's Buffalo News.

There’s great excitement brewing in Toronto, where I live, over the fact that the Bills are coming to play eight “home” games (five regular season and three preseason) there over the next five years.

As a longtime Bills fan and former Buffalo resident — I lived off Elmwood Avenue and taught at the University at Buffalo in the early 1980s, during which time I braved the cold Buffalo winters to have some of the greatest football experiences of my life — I have to admit I was one of the first in line to get my tickets. Rumors swirl that Toronto interests eventually will acquire the Bills and move the team north. For some, this is a signal that Buffalo, once the wealthier and more vibrant of the two cities, will lose not just its home team but its big-league status — yet another signal of the once-great industrial mecca’s fading glory.

Instead of bemoaning Buffalo’s loss or cheering Toronto’s gain, the binational Bills actually point the way to a better future. In fact, when asked at a major meeting of Buffalo area leaders several years ago (and well before I moved to Toronto) what I would suggest to revitalize the region, I blurted out, “become a part of Tor-Buff-Chester” — a clunky moniker for the economic powerhouse region stretching from my new hometown to Buffalo and Rochester.

More here. That's the Buffalo News graphic that accompanies the piece.


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Jason Koulouras

Thanks Richard for posting this. I know there are some gritty areas in Buffalo - when I take my kids there, they love it. The Buffalo Zoo is the right size and is surrounded by a lovely park. They love going to the naval museum, looking at the freight yards, nature park, science centre, and the neat eateries in the academic neighbourhoods.

Buffalo has a lot going for it in the longer run (even if many do not realise it) - access to fresh water, inexpensive housing, built infrastructure, recreational opportunities (boating, swimming), decent skiing to the south, and access top the Finger Lakes region.

We really have to see something more flexible done with the border (and as you mentioned fast rail) to power up the Tor-Buff-Chester region.

Ralf Lippold

Richard - it makes me wonder whether the indicators of mega regions such as the "Tor-Buff-Chester" can be applied to much smaller regions that don't make up to mega regions but mid-size regions.

I happen to live in such - Leipzig-Halle in the middle of former Eastern Germany- and the same silo-thinking is happening over here where majors defend their "own" cities not to the benefit of the whole region. There are special incentives for companies to establish factories depending on which acre of land or side of the road they apply for the subsidies.

All this drives the prosperity of the region down, very much like what has happened in Pittsburgh for the last decades.

I wonder, what could be done as there is no "Richard Florida" around in this area of the world (to my knowledge) and talking about your ideas there just comes a low smile and a comment like, "Oh yeah, this will work in the States, but not over here. That is a different thing.".

Any comments on that?




The irony is that Buffalo had such a hard time over the last 10 years wrapping its head around micro-regionalism, it seems a daunting task to get people to go along with mega-regionalism, but it makes too much sense not to. We wring our hands here too much about past mistakes, that we seldom (if ever) sit and think about where we go from here.

The border is the biggest impediment to the proper integration of this mega-region, and I don't know what the best way around that is.


The thing I find most preposterous about Florida's "Tor-Buff-Chester Corridor" is the vast emptiness that makes up most of the area.

It never ceases to amaze me that as soon as you get over the Peace Bridge, you drive mere minutes and are out in the boonies. And yet "90% of Canadians live within an hour of the border". Or whatever the statistic is. Where the heck are they?!?

Rochester is over an hour from Buffalo, and there's not a heck of a lot in between the two. I used to live in Batavia, exactly halfway between. There's nothing there!

Contrast this with, say, Chicagoland, which is more or less a continuous development from Gary, Indiana to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Cities like Joliet or Rockford, Illinois, which used to be separate entities, are slowly being engulfed by suburban sprawl from Chicago.

People think nothing of living in Wisconsin, or Indiana, or far, far western exurban Chicago and commuting downtown.

Well, maybe they think a little more about it these days! Even so, there are commuter lines to Joliet, Kenosha, and Gary that go right into downtown Chicago.


Mega region thinking is very important for us here in Buffalo. As the second poorest city in the US last year - yet possessing incredible resources both human and built, and one of the most exciting and resilient creative communities around - we need to develop strategies and take steps to connect better and assert our place in the region with Toronto and Rochester. We need to start working fast, and some of us are doing that now.

So thank you, Richard, for the editorial piece. Stay with us!

To the person that said there is only empty space in southern ontario: there are hundreds of new homes being built on former farmlands all along the lakeshore west of the QEW. I am told these are mostly being purchased by retirees cashing out of homes in Toronto who want to stay in the Ontario health insurance plan but are looking for a less congested life. As someone lucky enough to grow up spending summers on the Canadian shore of Lake Erie - Americans own many of those properties, mostly since a long time ago - I can tell you that the amount of empty space is FAR less than it was 20 years ago. That is also true of Route 5 (Main Street) between Amherst and Batavia.

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