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Buffalo has suffered from long decades of flight from the city, years that saw the emptying of middle-class neighborhoods, closed department stores, and lost jobs. Much of that movement was based on rational decisions to follow the customer base or to have a front yard. But much was propelled by reasons less benign, by fear of radicals and rioters, of crime and “those people.” Conscious government decisions also contributed greatly to this outward movement: town tax breaks, massive highway construction, and the building of UB’s suburban campus.

However, in recent years that trend has begun to reverse. People are moving into downtown loft apartments, the medical campus grows, and parks and historic infrastructure are appearing along the waterfront, drawing visitors from throughout the region. The government of Erie County has an opportunity at this very moment to either support this return to the city, or to only continue the long flight. This opportunity comes in the form of a new science building for Erie Community College. The county executive recently tried to spend $15 million for a new building in Amherst on the North Campus of ECC. Problems arose over funding, and the project was delayed.

This is the opportunity. State Assemblyman Sam Hoyt and Senator Mark Grisanti have called for the facility to be put downtown, and developer Rocco Termini has proposed the vacant AM&A’s building. A former department store would become and academic building. There is precedent: In 1981, a once vacant post office reopened as the gorgeous downtown home of ECC’s City Campus.

The city is the core of the region. We must continue to invest in its growth in order to secure our region’s healthy future. Put the science center in the former AM&A’s.

Todd Mitchell, Buffalo

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