Thursday, April 07, 2016 5:55PM, WGRZ By Erica Brecher
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BUFFALO, N.Y. — There’s a group of people who want Western New Yorkers to stop thinking of Buffalo’s East Side as a separate part of the city.
They hope their work and investment in those neighborhoods will help make Buffalo whole again.
A woman named Heidi Romer is leading the way. Her initiative, the Bailey Green Project is making a difference once step at a time.
Thursday was the groundbreaking for three new houses that are being built on Wende Street.
She helped bring the project to fruition.
“Wende Street has high vacancy,” Heidi said regarding how she and her partners chose the location.
By May, there will be two more. Romer expects they’ll be ready for families within a year.
Habitat for Humanity, which is helping build the houses, is one of Heidi’s many partners.
“That first call [to Habitat] happened in summer of 2013, and here we are today,” said Romer.
Established in 2008, the project’s first goal was to clean and green the area around Heidi’s business, Harmac Medical. When she realized most of her employees live in the Bailey neighborhood, she broadened her mission.
“Eliminate blight…investment in the neighborhood, neighborhood stabilization, neighborhood beautification, safety, bringing vitality back to this neighborhood, is our mission, I would say,” Romer said.
Romer brought on U.B. architects to help make her vision a reality.
“We are basically the urban designers for Bailey Green, so we will advise Heidi on how the streets can be improved,” said research assistant and architect Vivek Thanumalayan.
He and his colleague Gie Dai drew the renderings for the projects Romer wants to see be a reality five years from now.
“I see a sports court, working with Algonquin Sports for Kids, I see new retail space, community gardens with green houses and urban fruits and veggies,” Romer said, looking ahead.
At least one urban garden is already on the way.
“The small change improves people’s lives a lot,” said Dai.
Their strategy is called tactical urbanism.
“Tactical urbanism just means small investments, which can make an impact,” explained Thanumalayan.
Their thought is that even though this work, by itself, might not be a permanent solution, it can jump-start lasting change.
“This isn’t an East Side neighborhood, this is a buffalo neighborhood,” said Romer.
All of these improvements are eight years in the making, so it’s taken awhile to make these small changes. But Heidi Romer and the Bailey Green Project show no signs of stopping, and it’s clear that these small changes are beginning to make a big noticeable difference.
Romer is thanking for the Bailey Green stakeholders and the groups she said help her. Those include Habitat for Humanity, Algonquin Sports for Kids, Heart of the City Neighborhoods, Inc., the City of Buffalo, and her colleagues at Harmac.