Day Session Blog: Elizabeth Ervolina, Abbey Mecca & Company

How has the city and region grown and changed; and how have these changes molded the city into what it is today?

Buffalo has now become a destination city not just a stopping point on the way to Niagara Falls or other states. With the redevelopment of Canalside, the addition of Harbor Center and new breweries and distilleries, there is now a reason to bring tourists and people who live in the suburbs down to the city. There is something to do 12 months of the year! You can now spend a whole day on the waterfront from dining at 716 or Liberty Hound, to taking a pedal tour, listening to music and watching a hockey game at Harbor Center. The opening and expansion of Explore and More Children’s Museum gives families with children of all ages a fun place to play while learning about Buffalo’s history, where your food is coming from and how to put together a project by using tools.

What components of Buffalo’s arts, culture, and tourism industries are thriving, and where is there room for improvement?

Breweries are popping up on every corner and there seems to be a new beer or wine festival every month! Even though our sports teams may not always win they are still a huge draw for Buffalonians and visitors to our city. The Medical Campus is growing by the minute and is offering state of the art health care and thousands of jobs. The amount of historical tours offered such as the Buffalo Double Decker Bus, Buffalo River History Tour, Buffalo Cycle Boats and Explore Buffalo gives you the chance to check out places you may have never been before while learning some fun facts about Buffalo!

The Albright Knox is the 6th oldest museum to be established in the nation and has one of the best collections of contemporary art in the world! The AK 360 Project is an expansion plan to include new buildings, parking and classrooms to the museum grounds. This is expected to be completed by 2021.

There are farmers markets in the summer, free fitness classes at Canalside, Shakespeare in the Park, golf courses, pond hockey tournaments, ghost tours, ice skating, curling and more!

People in Buffalo need to promote and showcase how cool Buffalo is! We are not just known for wings and snow and we often get a negative reputation. For being a city with a large arts culture, there is a lack of visual arts coverage.

Better and more public transportation.

The Buffalo Niagara Airport - they need to accommodate the growing amount of people who visit Buffalo daily with more baggage carrousels and restaurants.

Preserving buildings and landmarks instead of knocking them down to build parking lots and garages. Buffalo is starting to get better at utilizing buildings for mixed use projects.

Become more of a walkable city. People are outside during the day if it is nice out or if there is an event but when nothing is going on in the city there is no one around.

The Convention Center - oldest in the US and hasn’t had any renovations since it was built.

There is always room for improvement in diversity.

What role does tourism play in the Buffalo economy?

Buffalo is a $1.8 billion industry for tourism and hospitality and employs over 33,000 people. We currently see 8 million visits annually and have grown 10% over the last 5 years. Buffalo/Niagara region ranks in the top 25 for international visitors because of our arts and culture, architecture and Niagara Falls. For every one dollar Visit Buffalo Niagara invests in sales and marketing, conventions and sports, we return almost $100. In 2018, we broke 2 records - $275 million overall hotel revenue in Erie County and the largest increase in average daily hotel rate to $107 per night.

What are some of the “hidden gems” of Buffalo’s arts and culture scene?

My group had the opportunity to visit the Colored Musicians Club on the East Side of Buffalo. I can’t tell you how many times I have driven by this location but have never been inside. George Scott, President of the Colored Musicians Club, told us about the over 100 year history of the Club by having us listen to different songs and watch videos in the museum of famous performers that have visited the club over the years such as Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie. Upstairs in the performance area, we were treated to a handful of songs played on the piano by a talented local musician as George gave us the inside scoop on what to expect during a live event in the club. We were all blown away by the talent and expressed interest in coming back on a Sunday night to see the whole band perform on stage!

Many people have been to the Buffalo Zoo, History Museum or Albright Knox on a school field trip but this time we were able to learn a little more about what these organizations had to offer to our community.

These are some of the site visits we went to in the afternoon that were chosen because they may be off the beaten path or we had interest in learning more about them.

  • Torn Space Theatre
  • Silo City
  • Darwin Martin House
  • Hotel Henry
  • Nash House
  • Teddy Roosevelt Site
  • Buffalo Arts Studio

What about this day impacted you the most?

It was a fun and positive day from start to finish and the weather cooperated! It was great learning about Buffalo’s rich history while uncovering places we may not have been familiar with and hearing about renovations and expansions we will be seeing in the future such as the development at Albright Knox and Outer Harbor. While a lot of positive changes have been happening, there is still a lot that needs to be done. It was great to be a tourist in our own city!

How can we, as leaders in the community, work to improve Arts, Culture, and Tourism in WNY?

Visit places and towns you have never gone to before. Bring your family, friends and out of town guests. Talk about it! Post pictures on social media and tag the locations. Share photos and news stories about Buffalo on your pages. Volunteer. Go to our local museums, Olmsted Parks, zoo and enjoy the amenities they have to offer. Donate to organizations and causes you believe in.

Based on your day today, what is the biggest challenge in ACTH in Buffalo today?

People still feel that the city is divided into neighborhoods and cultures (East Side, South Buffalo etc.) and many do not like to venture and travel down to somewhere they do not know even if it is only 20 minutes away. There is a gap of not knowing what is going on in these different parts of town.

Patrick Kaler of VBN touched upon two challenges in Buffalo which are limited marketing dollars compared to similar cities in population such as Grand Rapids and Pittsburgh and the lack of a new or up to date convention center.

Buffalo is a $1.8 billion industry for tourism and hospitality and employs over 33,000 people. We currently see 8 million visits annually and have grown 10% over the last 5 years.

Buffalo is not meeting its potential in conventions and events in the current location and has lost over 800 pieces of business over the years. New York State has invested over $1.5 billion into renovations so why not help us out in Buffalo?

How does the Servant Leadership trait of Commitment apply to this day session?

The servant-leader is committed to the growth of each individual within the organization. Servant-leaders are proponents of growth and ensure they do everything possible to educate and bring people together to build a sense of community. We are thinking about the future and how we can help make a change that will help benefit the people and culture in our community.

Additional thoughts or take-away’s?

We had so much fun planning this day and were very happy that everyone enjoyed themselves. Can’t wait to go back on the double decker bus and uncover some new history or gem we may not have known about! Thank you Templeton Landing for hosting our happy hour and Marcey thank you for everything you have done for us at Leadership Buffalo. We will miss you immensely!