Ahhhh Buffalo. Breathe it in.
It’s been almost 365 days since my ‘Going Home‘ post, and as I look back on my near-year of being settled in Western New York, I still have to pinch myself. You need to understand, I never thought I’d be able to come home due to the nature of the local economy and transient trajectory of our lives. So yes, the awe remains thanks in part to just feeling grateful I’m back where I belong, but also because since I’ve been home, this city has proven over and over again that it’s on the rise, and its latest renaissance is just getting started.
It’s hard to remember all of the great stories that have emerged from spring 2014 to spring 2015. I forget what I had for lunch yesterday. Oh yeah, it was pizza. Pizza is symbolic not only of my poor diet choices, but of change in the city of Buffalo, NY. We’ve long done pizza and wings better than any other place in the country. You can argue about it if you want, but it doesn’t matter. You’re wrong. We do it best. There have been delicious new interpretations of actual pizza in places like Hydraulic Hearth in Larkinville, as well as a boom of new restaurants that have blossomed all over, including The Black Sheep, Buffalo Proper, Dog è Style, Oshun, and more. Breweries and distilleries like Resurgence, Big Ditch, Community Beer Works, Lockhouse and BFLO have opened doors for a resurgence (sorry) of craft consumers and creators alike. Food is being harvested here, distributed here, and appreciated here. Farms, markets, and food shares are benefitting, as are the people who take advantage of them. Old spaces have been reinvented and reimagined, like the hugely popular art party at the silos, City of Night, Public Espresso’s new modbar in the lobby of the Hotel at Lafayette, The Church and Rectory space in South Buffalo, start-up incubator spaces at Z80 Labs and The Foundry, plus plans for the former Richardson-Olmstead Complex to transform into an “urban resort conference space” in the future Hotel Henry. Let’s not forget last summer- the greatest summer of ALL our lives at Canalside, which is potentially Buffalo’s largest and most exhilarating reinvention of public space to date. None of this was here when I left in 2009, and the belief that any of this could ever be possible was just a hope without much of a plan. Now we have seen it come to fruition and it’s just the beginning.
Spring 2014 to spring 2015 set the stage for the Buffalo Bills‘ roller coaster of emotion, change, wins, and defeats. Honestly, it was enough to make any fan sign up for therapy. Ralph Wilson died. The Bills’ future looked bleak. The circus of potential owners became a national spectacle. The Pegula ownership left many diehards in tears of gratitude and renewed thrill for the future. A run for the playoffs almost felt like the closest the Bills have come in years, but in the end left us bereft. Doug left. Rex arrived. Money got SPENT, YO. All of a sudden, millions of dollars later, the Buffalo Bills are newsworthy, and perhaps even on the road to becoming the unstoppable bully that was promised. All will be revealed in the fall of 2015, but the outlook could not be better for the team that circles the wagons.
Just last night, the UB Men’s Basketball team left us all ecstatically celebrating their first ever opportunity to attend “The Big Dance,” otherwise known as the NCAA Basketball Tournament. AKA MARCH MADNESS. By winning against Central Michigan University, they show that once again, the forever Buffalo underdog IS capable and just as deserving of a happy ending. I can’t help but whisper, Cinderella.
Buffalo bands together in good times and bad. Together, Buffalonians survived the hardships of winter, including the record-breaking 7+ feet of snowfall in “Snowvember.” Times of celebration brought forth enthusiastic groups of revelers during World Cup soccer viewing parties and cheering on teams at the Women’s World Championship Hockey event at Harborcenter. Watching and living these events kept me thinking, “I LOVE this town.”
And guess what? The world took notice. Not only applauded for our tenacity during times of wicked winter weather but also for our creativity to make the best out of it, people outside of Western New York learned more about all of the great things Buffalo has to offer: Ice Bikes at Canalside, Donuts you MUST Eat Before You Die, Top 10 Food City in America, Best St. Patrick’s Day Celebrations in the Country, and Architecture at its Finest,… it’s hard to ignore that these days, everything’s coming up Buffalo.
So many more events, gatherings, positive news stories, and hope swirls around this region on the rise. From spring to spring, I’ve watched Buffalo steadily rise from easy punchline to something to talk about. I am endlessly thankful to be here to witness it all.