University at Buffalo’s living laboratory of community revitalization and adaptive reuse

Near then end of January, 2019, University at Buffalo students in the Western New York Prosperity Fellows Program worked to reimagine South Buffalo’s historic Liberty Seneca building during a weeklong seminar that transformed the region into a community revitalization learning lab.

The UB seminar aimed to help students develop a deeper understanding of the challenges to and opportunities for economic revitalization in the region.

The Western New York Prosperity Fellowship Program, funded by the Prentice Family Foundation, supports students who are committed to the region’s economic vitality by awarding each Fellow up to $25,000 in scholarship and internship support for an academic year.

In return, Fellows promise to work in Western New York for at least two years within 10 years of graduation, fueling economic growth for the region.

On January 23, the group toured the Ford Gum & Machine Company. A manufacturer of chewing and bubble gum often found in gum machines, Ford Gum produces Big League Chew and is one of the only large scale manufacturers of gumballs in the U.S. The tour was led by George Stege, owner of Ford Gum and a UB alumnus.

On January 24, they toured the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation. The tour was led by Jill Clarke, WNY Prosperity Fellowship Program alumnus and marketing project manager of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation.

Students also toured ACV Auctions, a startup focused on online wholesale auto auctions. The tour of the historic building in which it is housed was led by Matthew Hartrich, vice president of development at Schneider Development Services.

On January 25, the students had a discussion with Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz.

The week of activities culminated in a startup simulation, during which fellows will form teams to develop and pitch a business concept to utilize the 8,200-square-feet of vacant space within the Liberty Seneca building and help revitalize the neighborhood. The pitches took place at the recently-restored Shea’s Seneca building.

Now, that’s a program that I (Storm Cunningham) would like to see replicated at universities all around the planet!

Photo of the Liberty Seneca building courtesy of Schneider Development Services.

See UB Western New York Prosperity Fellows Program website.

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