Robert G. Shibley, dean of the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning, has a vision for our future that has worked well for the region.
It is the reason that the American Institute of Architects has decided to honor him with its prestigious lifetime achievement award in June. He will receive the 2014 Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture, one of the highest honors for American architects.
Shibley has spent the past three decades working tirelessly in planning and design for the betterment of his adopted city, and winning awards along the way. Yet, he remains humble in describing “citymaking” as a team sport. That humility explains how he has been able to work so well with so many administrations – three mayors and five New York State governors.
Shibley founded the Urban Design Project, which is focused on major planning projects, in 1990 and also heads the UB Regional Institute. Shibley has left his mark on downtown and particularly the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
The “Queen City in the 21st Century,” Buffalo’s comprehensive plan adopted by the city in 2006, references the “The Queen City Hub,” “The Queen City Waterfront” and “The Olmsted City” (the plan for our park and parkway system), all done under Shibley’s direction. The four core plans earned the impressive Charter Award from the Congress for the New Urbanism in 2009. “The Queen City Hub” was called out individually as the best plan by the American Planning Association in its national awards competition in 2005.
Shibley told The News that the tagline that follows “Queen City Hub” is “a regional action plan for downtown Buffalo,” one that will advance the kind of investments that the governor is now making with his Buffalo Billion pledge. The planning pays attention to the relationship between regional and municipal responsibilities. City and region interdependency is a core theme of next-step action building on the momentum people are now feeling.
Down the road, wealth and capacity have to be increased for all citizens. And for that Shibley points to One Region Forward (visit oneregionforward.org) a three-year initiative now in its second year. The intent is to bring together existing municipal, state and federal blueprints into a measurable, sustainable plan for the region.
The One Region Forward steering committee’s focus is on land use, housing, climate action, food system security and transportation. Those five components look at a regional framework within which programs like the Queen City Hub could thrive.
As Shibley said, without that kind of broader regional look, we’ll only defeat ourselves. The dean poses an important question, and has an answer. How will we know we’re making progress 20 years from now? “We’ll know because the city and region are working collaboratively on really tough problems, and we’ll know because the way they work on those problems will see an increase in social justice and equity in our communities.”
Spoken like a true visionary.