Nobody would have believed 20 years ago that Pittsburgh and Cleveland could bounce back and have trendy downtowns. And nobody believes that about Buffalo now. But already underway on the north side of the city is a complex of a teaching hospital and medical research center that will be among the world's largest and best equipped. Thousands of professionals will move to the city to staff the center. Add the NFL to downtown, and Buffalo might acquire the cachet it needs to rebound.
That brings us to stadium cost. The Buffalo News reports that Bills bidders and local politicians say they expect a new stadium to cost $1 billion. Bruce Fisher, an urban economist at Buffalo State, estimates that because both the Buffalo real estate market and construction business are depressed, a world-class downtown NFL stadium could be built for about $500 million. Fisher thinks the land acquisition and existing property demolition expense would be only $30 million, which is very low by the standards of major urban public works. CenturyLink Field, a magnificent facility in Seattle, located in one of the world's hottest real estate markets, cost $575 million in today's dollars. Why should a similar project in depressed Buffalo cost more?
The answer is corruption. Because there's little economic activity in the Buffalo area, there are few chances for government, construction company and construction union corruption. If the state legislature decides to write a blank check for a new NFL stadium, this will be the biggest candy jar for Buffalo insiders to reach into since Robert Moses.
Bottom line: If taxpayers are to support a new NFL facility for Buffalo, it must be downtown and must be realistically priced.
New urbanism tip: A lively indie arts scene is developing at Silo City, the abandoned grain silos on Buffalo's Lake Erie waterfront. Buffalo's Allentown and Chippewa arts-music-bar districts grow ever trendier. Studio Arena Theater, back in the day an important location for Broadway-bound trials, just returned to existence as 710 Main Theatre, while the nearby Shaw Festival has emerged as among North America's top regional theaters. Delaware Park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, awaits discovery as the finest American urban green space other than Olmsted's Central Park.
Starting about 20 years ago, downtown areas of Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Washington, D.C., and other cities came roaring back from decline. A decade ago, Pittsburgh's downtown came roaring back. Now Cleveland -- great theater district, the Republican National Convention in 2016 -- is roaring back. Buffalo fell furthest behind, so its recovery may come last. Still, the Buffalo area seems poised near critical mass for roaring back. In Buffalo your housing dollar buys a well-built home in the university district or a good-schools 'burb for the price of a one-bedroom condo in Boston, New York or San Francisco. Yes, it snows, but unlike in Chicago or Washington, the snow is promptly plowed. Yes, it's cold in winter, but summers are a delight. And no traffic jams! Don't be surprised if Buffalo comes roaring back (this paragraph was not sponsored content from the Chamber of Commerce).