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ECC Moving in the Wrong Direction With New Project

At last week’s 21st annual Congress for the New Urbanism in Salt Lake City, developers and real estate financiers were discussing the need to focus investment in walkable, urban neighborhoods. This is driven partly by lifestyle shifts among the Millennial generation (born between 1980 and 2000), who want to live, work, and play in urban areas that offer diverse cultural, social, and transportation amenities.

Large companies, like QuickenLoans in Detroit or First Niagara Bank here in Buffalo, understand that to attract young talent they need to be located in dynamic, mixed-use urban areas. “Large, suburban-based companies are losing talent to urban areas with good neighborhoods,” stated Hooper Knowlton III, of Parleys Partners, a multi-unit housing developer in Utah and presenter at CNU21. “The suburban office parks of the 1970s and ’80s are shifting their operations to the vibrant, 24/7 neighborhoods that support [Millennial] lifestyles,” he added. One has to just look at the burgeoning Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and countless renovations on Main Street’s 500 block as evidence of this in Buffalo alone.

In spite of these trends, Erie Community College has decided to construct a new $30 million academic building - focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) at its North Campus in Amherst and furthering a controversial trend in local policy that included locating a major university campus distant from its population center nearly 50 years ago.

While ECC commits the STEM center to its suburban North Campus, which will also include critical training programs for advanced manufacturing, the WNY Regional Economic Development Council prepares to move forward with constructing an advanced manufacturing training facility in the City of Buffalo. Among the reasons for the Council’s decision include the migration of key jobs proximate to Buffalo’s urban center and the location of many of the region’s undereducated population - both in key urban places that employers and developers are now focusing investment.

As the jobs of the future gravitate to these vibrant and walkable places, ECC heads in the opposite direction by building a STEM center at its North Campus, risking disconnecting their students from the jobs, opportunities and lifestyles they need to succeed in today’s knowledge-based economy—in spite of all of the evidence to the contrary.

> Bernice Radle and Greg Conley, Co-Chairs, Young Citizens for ECC

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