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Urban Habitat Project at the Central Terminal

David Majewski's Urban Habitat Project reconsiders landscaping in a shrinking city.

One of the most profoundly important projects in the city of Buffalo in 2013 is not on the waterfront, not downtown, not affiliated with UB, and probably is not even on your radar screen. It is an important part of the Central Terminal Restoration Project (CTRP). Although the actual restoration of that magnificent building, imprinted richly with the fabric of Western New York history, is very significant in how our city thinks about itself and our future, it is how they are dealing with the property outside and adjacent to that building that is new, innovative, and exciting. It is transforming how we look at urban landscaping.

It is called the Urban Habitat Project (UHP). David Majewski began several years ago to look at ecosystem services and habitat restoration strategies in an urban setting and engaged the not-for-profit board of the CTRP and the City of Buffalo in this reclamation project. Majewski, who runs his own landscaping and construction business, Premescape, began earnestly thinking about Buffalo’s urban landscape from a more naturalistic perspective in the aftermath of the October 2006 Arborgeddon snowstorm. This expensive disaster proved an opportunity to rethink how we use and develop urban spaces with an emphasis on regenerative and ecological design, or RED, principles. “We need to work with nature, protect nature, nurture nature, and learn from nature,” Majewski says. “We can take urban spaces, make them beautiful, and at the same time help with stormwater runoff, protect pollinators and other valuable urban wildlife.”

Essentially RED principles encourage finding ways to engage natural strategies to promote ecological services. These include composting, stormwater runoff, and the promotion of biodiversity. Majewski calls this “low-impact development” in that you don’t create expensive high maintenance landscaping that resists the way nature works and looks. We can help nature to help us.

This promotes a fundamental approach to climate change in that we restore soils and services though composting, create a biodiverse environment that supports ecosystem services such as air and water filtration, is low-maintenance, and creates a green urban zone that helps to sequester carbon and moderates heat and cold in the middle of an intense urban place.

Majewski and the CTRC and together have created a beautiful natural landscape at one of our most important urban sites. The UHP landscape includes plantings of native species that encourage pollinators and a diversity of other wildlife species, including dragonflies, butterflies, and songbirds. The space has designed ecosystems including a small cattail marsh (used for stormwater runoff), meadow and upland, and a growing canopy of native trees and shrubs.

Majewski uses the project as a classroom and as a demonstration project to show that “green” landscaping techniques can be cost-effective and create functional, educational, and beautiful places. This year the National Garden Festival and the Garden Walk Buffalo will include the UHP as a stop on the “Beyond Flowers Tour,” which takes place August 3.

Majewski and the CTRC collaboration have been tireless in the pursuit of making the Urban Habitat Project work. Today, a couple of years after the first shovel turned earth, the promise of this site is becoming profoundly evident.

If you get a chance, go and take a look at its summer beauty and magnificence, in the setting of one of Buffalo’s most important sites, the Central Terminal.

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