Downtown Buffalo, New York is on the verge of a design recovery. Despite once being celebrated for its architectural and engineering achievements of the 1800s, Buffalo spent the near century that followed in a downward trend. Contemporarily considered a forgotten city of the industrial era, it now sits at the precipice of a new beginning. Around the 1980s, a series of investment studies produced reports outlining the different ways downtown Buffalo was struggling. Whether it was measured by loss of residential population, corporate headquarters leaving town, or just general urban decay, Buffalo had been exhibiting all the symptoms of a dying city for decades. Its last real growth period spanned from the 1920s to the 1950s, peaking at around 580k residents. In the period of decline that followed, Buffalo lost nearly 55% of its population in the blink of an eye . It now sits under 10k residents, and the question is, what is the connection between a declining population and a built environment?

The purpose of this thesis is to identify the existing points of disconnection between Buffalo’s harbor and its center city, which are two nodes of potential, then define a series of solutions that can provide the most opportunity for sustainable regrowth from the inside out. The goal is to inhibit the prosperity of downtown Buffalo economically and aesthetically - but most importantly, functionally. The design will be a framework for which future developments can fit into seamlessly. Robust and vibrant new veins through holes in the urban fabric, such as empty lots, surface parking, and unsightly highway overpasses, will be the emphasis of this proposal. The focal point of the design will be a revised Sports and Entertainment District with entirely new city blocks surrounding a new downtown football stadium for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills. Growth will stem from the Cobblestone District and reach outward beyond the I-190 overpass, back into the original Joseph Ellicott plan. The design is a three-pronged approach that will address connectivity, residential blocks, and commercial growth -- all of which are staples of a healthy, sustainable downtown.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Urban renewal--New York (State)--Buffalo; Community development, Urban--New York (State)--Buffalo; Central business districts--New York (State)--Buffalo

Publication Date

Summer 2020

Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Architecture (M.Arch.)

Department, Program, or Center

Architecture (GIS)


Alissa deWit-Paul

Advisor/Committee Member

Dennis A. Andrejko


RIT – Main Campus

Plan Codes