By Brian Meyer

News Staff Reporter

The Elmwood Village is considered one of the region’s most stable commercial districts. It won a designation in 2007 by the American Planning Association as one the nation’s 10 great neighborhoods.

Carly Battin, executive director of the Elmwood Village Association, sat down with The Buffalo News’ Brian Meyer to talk about the district’s success and some challenges that it faces. Here is a summary of the interview highlights.

Battin: I’m very happy to say that the status of Elmwood in general is very strong, one of the strongest commercial districts in the city. I think that the neighborhoods that surround it really contribute to that.

Meyer: You’ve got a strong residential core and a real dense [population] base, a lot of businesses. What makes that work?

Battin: I think it’s the mix of businesses that we have here, and the fact that people have places to walk to, places that they can frequent as families.

So I think that having so many dense neighborhoods surrounding the businesses is really what helps to make it all successful.

Meyer: Have you seen a lot of changes in the mix of businesses, the diversity of businesses over the years?

Battin: We have. We have sort of high turnover here. We see the businesses change quite frequently for some of them. Some of them are very long-standing ... We just look, as the Elmwood Village Association, to help to attract businesses that are going to fill the gaps ... We have almost 300 businesses, believe it or not, in the Elmwood district.

Meyer: I asked some students in a Buffalo State College [SUNY Buffalo State] class recently how many of them frequented businesses on the Elmwood Strip. And almost every hand went up. Then asked them how many people have experienced parking migraines, and almost all hands went up. What about the parking issue on Elmwood? Battin: I think it’s, number one, the sign of a healthy commercial district that there [are] so many people wanting to come down here and wanting to park. One of the city’s goals is to make driving cars maybe less of an important option for people – to have a better mix of people using public transportation and people biking and walking. So we’re hoping to see more of that going forward. In the mean time, we’re working really closely with the city to come up with some alternatives, including alternate-side parking on some of the side streets – some things that might alleviate the parking problems that people are seeing.

Meyer: Tell us about some of the new businesses that are popping up and some of the events that are coming up this spring.

Battin: We’re really excited that we have two new businesses that have just recently been announced. Joe’s Deli, and also the Taste of Siam...Going forward [this] spring, we have our annual spring clean-up that the Elmwood Village Association helps organize, helping to beautify the area...

Meyer: One of the big issues is the talk of code changes ... There’s talk now of this Green Code that’s going to be implemented citywide. How do you think that’s going to affect the look and feel of the Elmwood Village?

Battin: The Elmwood Village Design Standards were put in place a number of years ago with good urban design in mind. So walkability, density, things like building right up to the street, all of those things are being carried over in the Green Code ...

Meyer: We won’t likely see a lot of wild changes in Elmwood’s look when this new code is imposed?

Battin: There are some changes that we’re still speaking with the city about. We had a public meeting a couple of weeks ago and heard a lot of feedback from the neighborhood. Things like the size of a retail space that can be on the ground floor was a controversial one.

Meyer: Over the years, I’ve heard some rumblings from people who have said, “You know, a lot of folks think that being on Elmwood is sort of the pot of gold – that anyone who is on the Elmwood Strip is making loads of money.” And they said, “You know, that’s not the case. A lot of businesses are still struggling to make the numbers work.”

Battin: Yeah. It’s definitely attractive to be here on Elmwood. We have a lot of foot traffic. It’s seen as being really a regional destination, and we’re seeing a lot of visitors coming to the area. So there’s certainly great parts about being here. But the rent is quite high here in some cases. So it can be difficult for a business to survive.

I see our job ... [as being to help] businesses to attract people to the area and really marketing us as a destination for people to visit.