We Want Great Urban Design : Tell Tim Horton’s To Adjust Their Current Design Proposal!

Today, I wrote this letter to the City Planning Board as an alternative option for the proposed Tim Hortons on Niagara and Albany. (See article about proposal here!)  It is my hope that our leaders will ask Tim Horton’s to redesign this project into a more urban space that better aligns with our community vision. Full Letter Here: Tim Hortons Alternative Proposal by Bernice Radle
The planning board meeting is TOMORROW, Nov 5th. If you want to voice your concern, email these people – tchwalinski@city-buffalo.com, nmarrero@city-buffalo.com, darivera@city-buffalo.com, bbrown@ch.ci.buffalo.ny.us

James Morrell – City Planning Board 901 City Hall Buffalo, NY 14202

Re: Tim Horton’s Proposal for Niagara & Albany Street

Dear Mr. Morrell,

I write to urge the City Planning Board to ask for adjustments to the site plan of the proposed Tim Horton’s at Niagara and Albany streets. Simple, effective design changes will help better align this project with what the community has envisioned.

The current design disregards three important planning initiatives that citizens have worked hard to create:

  • Buffalo Green Code. The proposal casts aside the placemaking principles embodied in the Green Code. The goal of the Green Code is to enhance our urban fabric with dense, mixed-use buildings, built up to the sidewalk, with parking hidden away. The current proposal is suburban, not urban, which is inappropriate for the West Side.
  • Vision Niagara. The proposal does not reflect what the community has envisioned for the Niagara Street corridor. Through numerous community meetings, Vision Niagara has helped generate consensus around reinforcing our walkable, mixed-use neighborhood; embracing heritage buildings and landscapes; and enhancing the corridor’s relationship with the Niagara River. The current proposal falls short of these goals.
  • Complete Streets Policy. The proposal puts the automobile before people, and is in conflict with City plans now underway to make Niagara St. more safe and comfortable for pedestrians, cyclists, transit riders, and the mobility impaired.

The solution is pretty simple! A few simple adjustments can better align the Tim Horton’s proposal to the community’s design expectations:

  • Relocate the proposed retail building to the corner of the lot at Niagara and Albany streets, with zero setbacks from the front and corner side lot lines.
  • Locate all parking and drive-through areas to the rear and interior side of the building.
  • Increase the percentage of fenestration along the front facade to 70%, measured between two and eight feet above ground level.

With such a simple adjustment, the project will immediately begin to follow the principles citizens have laid out in the Green Code, Vision Niagara, and Complete Streets Policy. This simple change will meet the community vision, as well as rely on design precedents for Tim Horton’s central city locations throughout North America, including in Buffalo. The urban Tim Horton’s in the newly opened One Harbor Center follows the community’s expectations, as should this proposal.

Please help our community restore a mixed use, walkable neighborhood that embraces smart growth and good urban design. We hope you will listen to the wants and needs of the community and demand excellence as our community continues to grow.

Thank you,

Bernice Radle

CC:       Mayor Byron W. Brown & Councilmember David Rivera
map TimHortons THsiteplan

NESEA BE13 – Conference Wrap Up & Great News To Share With You!

I wanted to do a quick wrap up of my NESEA Building Energy (Be13) experience.

First of all, I thought it would be tough to beat getting the entire NESEA building nerdy crowd to say the words “think urban, think sexy”  …. but this years conference beat it!

The overall conference was amazing. It was so much fun.. I am still recovering! There was a great vibe, a lot of newbies and attendance was at an all time high. Boston was windy and rainy but inside people were learning about buildings, cities, mechanicals and so much more. There was a lot of Buffalo representation – Chris Hawley from the City of Buffalo, Jerry Young from Young & Wright architects and Megan McNally was in attendance and/or presented. Go Buffalo!

If you are interested in NESEA – become a member! Not only do you get a discount on the conference but you do get to meet, drink and learn with the inventors/doers/shakers in the building science industry. www.nesea.org <– See the website for details on membership, events and information.

I have really great news ! 

Matt Root and I have been selected as the co-vice chairs of the ENTIRE conference for BE2014! HOLY COW! With Marc Sternick, Matt Root and I – we make a fun, dynamic team. This means I will be helping to organize, market, find cash and move the conference forward for 2014 and 2015. NESEA is such a wonderful organization and I am happy to help dedicate my time towards making the NESEA conference in Boston even bigger and better!

The Retrofit for Resilience: Cities track that Robert Leaver and I co created had VERY high attendance! That is a BIG deal for us because this is a whole new subject and was a very risky endeavor. Building scientists don’t usually think about Cities..  but it was great to see so much interest in it! With great risk comes great reward…  Yay! I am looking forward to seeing how this track progresses over the next couple of years. Resiliency is a big topic these days!

Many thanks goes out to all of the NESEA planning staff, volunteers, NESEA employees, presenters and attendees for making this NESEA the best NESEA Building Energy conference I have ever experienced.

Glowing with excitement after being announced as the Co-Vice Chair for the NESEA BE14.
Glowing with excitement after being announced as the Co-Vice Chair for the NESEA BE14.
Presenting about cities, planning and resilience.
Chris Hawley dazzles the crowd with his presentation about zoning and Buffalo!



Pour Concrete, Add Art. Buffalo’s Marine A Grain Elevator in the 21st Century!

Buffalo's Iconic Grain Elevators

When national bloggers come to Buffalo to learn about our grain elevators – it’s a big deal.

Chris Hawley and Chuck Banas took Max from the Urbanologist blog around last weekend to see the potential, the excitement and the DIY grain elevator art movement that is transforming how we view the grain elevators in the Queen City. This is a BIG DEAL. Buffalo has a lot of grain elevators and we have started to really embrace them. And it’s not just the younger generation that cares, people of all ages come to the grain elevators in Buffalo to experience these sleepy gentle giants.

You can read the article here.

A huge thank you goes to Chris Hawley and Chuck Banas who spent the day with this guy talking up Buffalo. Keep it up, guys!!

Silo City - Buffalo, NY
Buffalo’s Grain Elevators

Urbanisms Pivot Point: A Must Read Article!

This article is a MUST READ on where CNU is pushing and heading for the future.
Urbanists and planners now are saying that we should not allow any removal of existing building stock and should push to re energize our existing cities!


The Congress for the New Urbanism views disinvestment in central cities, the spread of placeless sprawl, increasing separation by race and income, environmental deterioration, loss of agricultural lands and wilderness, and the erosion of society’s built heritage as one interrelated community-building challenge.

The article also suggests buying this book. I know I will be picking it up this week.

New Urbanism: Best Practices Guide, 4th Ed.


By Robert Steuteville, Philip Langdon & special contributors.


Pushing the Urbanism/City Agenda in the Building Science World at NESEA BE13

I wrote this blog post last week for the NESEA site. NESEA is allowing me to co chair a “Cities” track that talks about urbanism, cities and energy efficiency! Its really the next step from my keynote, which you can read here. I am really excited. This is a big deal for the building science world. Send your proposals in!

Retrofitting for Resilience: Cities
Resilience of Cities: Be Urban. Be Environmental. Be Smart. Be Resilient. Be Sustainable.

This year in preparation for BE 13 at NESEA we are opening the dialogue to discuss the ultimate form of sustainability. Sustaining ourselves through good planning, smart building and ultimately being resilient to whatever our climate throws our way.

At NESEA BE12, the keynote speakers discussed the occupy movement, insulation, solar parking lots and city planning initiatives. All of these things discussed happen in cities, therefore we bring you the newest NESEA track for Building Energy 13 – Retrofitting for Resilience: The City Edition. ultimate form of sustainability. Sustaining ourselves through good planning, smart building and ultimately being resilient to whatever our climate throws our way.

This new track can go anywhere because there is an enormous amount of material to cover and only 6 sessions. We wanted to take a moment to give your ideas as to where we would like to see this track go which is open but not limited to our ideas. We want YOUR ideas on retrofitting for resilience in our cities.

First thing, lets define resilience: the power or ability to return to the original form, position,etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity.

Now here are our ideas for sessions organized by themes — presented to spark thinking. Go beyond these ideas and tell us what you want to do! The proposals are due June 15, 2012.  You will find the complete RFP, describing the conference, and the response form at the NESEA website.

If you have any questions, please contact us.

Bernice Radle: Bernice@buffalo-energy.com

Robert Leaver: rleaver@newcommons.com

Ideas for sessions/discussions: 
Urban Planning

Promoting energy efficient housing, smart growth and urbanism is the ultimate sustainable/resilient environment which can only happen in cities!

  • Resilient community based planning initiatives?
  • Historic preservation
  • Urban planning initiatives – cities – form based codes, historic preservation, smart growth
  • Getting away from the car
  • European initiatives on resilience in cities?
  • Regionalism/urban planning
  • Landbanking ideas
  • Urban agriculture
  • Policy ideas on promoting resilience? What are cities doing? Federal government? Regional initiatives?
  • Urban metabolism (new work at Harvard)
  • Multiple urbanisms: new, landscape, ecological and sustainable with Margarita Iglesia at BSA this spring

Energy Efficiency

  • How can we retrofit our existing buildings and design new builds with greater efficiency? What is being done to our building codes? Mass Stretch Codes? IECC?

Weather/Climate Change/Technologies

  • In one session with a structural engineer, civil engineer and public health official…what ha
  • ppens to Boston in 3 scenarios: a category III hurricane hits; 20 inches of rain in one week; 25 day heat wave…How ready is it now?  What has to change to be ready?
  • Surging seas and cities
  • “Transportable technologies”  – what can we do in the NESEA region that will help other global regions with resilience and adaptation?
  • NYC is investing 1.5 billion to upgrade its infrastructure to be a green infrastructure — the basic idea is to rely more on nature as NYC did when the original grid was laid out
  • Case Studies/Results/General Initiatives
  • Individual habits, case studies, initiatives that promote resilience?
  • What are cost effective solutions that can help promote resilience?

OWN IT. Tips on getting paid to do what you love.

If you think you can hand your resume to someone, interview and get a job – you are crazy. Not in this world that we live in. Not in this economy.

The one thing I can say is you NEED to get involved. Jobs just don’t appear. You have to open your own door. We have the internet here so you can start a blog in your field, contribute towards facebook group chats, blogs, even events and you don’t have to be in Buffalo to do it! Get your name out there. Open yourself to doing a lot of FREE work because ultimately, people will see your hard work and hire you permanently. Buffalo is a great place where it doesn’t take that much to OWN something so you should OWN whatever you do. OWN IT. Don’t be afraid to over extend, to volunteer a lot, to get involved in an organization that you like… It will all pay off in the end.

Top Tips:

Here are a couple things that you should do to secure a solid career oriented job. This is for any type of job.

1. Get Involved!

2. Intern/Volunteer as much as possible.

3. Become active in a major organization in your field.

4. Call, email – bug people to follow up on your internship/job request.

5. Don’t stop. Don’t give up. Ask around. Buffalo may take a while but it will be worth it.


Here are some qualities people are looking for when hiring: Passion, enthusiasm, having an open mind, intelligence. You probably hear that all the time but it is very true. I am not always looking for the more experience but someone who can learn, listen and love what they are doing. Young people are the best at this because they can be molded and taught easier than older people – most graduates are at an advantage!

Ideas for Involvement:

For all the urban planners, architects, preservationists, Buffalo lovers, real estate people out there – join Preservation Ready Sites and get on the dialogue, write for Buffalorising, start getting involved with PBN, BYP or ULI or even environmental groups like WAG or WNYSEA. Each connection, each new contact brings you closer to success.

Case Studies/Examples

Just to give you some examples.. It took Chris Hawley five years to pursue his urban planner career at city hall. Many of his contacts were found working at Spot Coffee. Dana Saylor opened her own company to do historic research and her connections and contacts have helped her along quite nicely!  Mike Puma dedicated himself to Preservation Studios and Buffalorising so much that Preservation studios hired him out of the box. Myself, I pushed for an internship at NYSERDA that ultimately gave me my experience for my career. I sent one email to my boss to tell him I was looking and I was hired the next week. Creighton Randall started his own carshare company – Buffalo CarShare!

The list goes on and on… If I can connect you to anyone.. just let me know. berniceradle@gmail.com

Growing the Herd: Engaging and Employing our Newest Urban Planners!


We already lost one amazing urban planner who would have helped make Buffalo better to MONTANA. Another friend is considering a move to Syracuse because of a job offer there…

BUFFALO, If we want to keep these smart  preservation/planning kids here to make Buffalo better, we HAVE to keep them engaged and get them hired somewhere (even if it is not ideal) so they can stay and make ties and connections here in BUFFALO.

As a recent grad, I cannot stress how important it is to get students hired or actively engaged into the city and what they are passionate about. If we cannot pull them in, they graduate and leave for a bigger, better place. I had the same decision to make and it was tough and I LOVE Buffalo… Do I stay or do I go?  Because we do not have the allure of Portland or NYC, we as a community, need to work harder and smarter to find opportunities for these students during college but also directly out of college so they stay.

The Histpress blog is a great resource for Buffalo preservation jobs. Check here for details: http://histpres.com/tag/buffalo


1. I want all the urban planning/preservation/economic development grads to send me their resumes.

2. I want all the professional, community development people to send me your job opportunities, internships, summer help  – whatever you have.

My email is: berniceradle@gmail.com

Lets keep these people busy so they sign another one year apartment lease. The more time they spend here, the more dedicated they become!