Developers react to Buffalo’s new Green Code

The Green Code puts good looks and history on par with function

Fredrick Law Olmstead, widely considered one of the great American landscape architects, once described Buffalo, New York, as “the best planned city in America, if not the world.”

Olmstead, who designed Central Park for New York City in 1857, was invited to Buffalo in 1868 to design a park for the city and was immediately taken by the street system, a grid overlaid by a series of radial streets. Olmstead decided to add to this layout by designing a series of parks to be interspersed through Buffalo’s neighborhoods.

Subsequent developments in Buffalo might have Olmstead rolling in his grave.

In the 1950s, the scenic Humboldt Parkway, which linked two of Olmstead’s parks, was destroyed to make room for a sunken highway. In 1960, another highway severed the city, cutting Buffalo off from the Niagara River, one of its many historic waterfronts. In following decades, modern, pragmatic building practices chipped away at the city’s character.

New times, new zones

But perhaps Olmstead would find hope in zoning and building codes meant to return Buffalo to its once charismatic layout and appearance.

Getting final approval from Mayor Byron W. Brown in early 2017, the city’s new Green Code, more formally the Unified Development Ordinance, is the first major overhaul of Buffalo’s zoning laws since 1953.

As opposed to most city zoning that focuses on a building’s use instead of its appearance, Buffalo’s new laws require developers and construction companies to first take into account how a new building, renovation or development fits with its neighborhood.

These so-called form-based codes promote historic preservation and more walkable city neighborhoods by encouraging mixed-use developments and access to alternative forms of transportation, proponents say.

Or, as Buffalo’s Green Code website states, “It sets standards to ensure that adjacent buildings complement rather than conflict with each other.”

Long considered

Buffalo’s Green Code took effect in early February, making Buffalo the third U.S. city, behind Denver and Miami, to have a form-based code on the books. While the local laws don’t impact developments that have already been approved, many developers have already taken steps to comply.

Buffalo City Hall and its surrounding.

“We started hearing developers saying they were designing to the Green Code two years ago,” said Brendan R. Mehaffy, executive director of Buffalo’s Office of Strategic Planning, during a press conference with local news stations. “They understood that the community had been so involved in the process that they wanted to follow the standards being created because they knew they had a lot of community input.”

That early adaption is evident in Larkinville, a neighborhood just east of Buffalo’s downtown.

Originally known as the Larkin District, the neighborhood was once the site of the Larkin Soap Company, a successful mail-order company that fell to ruin in the 1940s, leaving behind abandoned manufacturing facilities and warehouses.

In 2002, Larkin Development Group (LDG), a Buffalo-based developer, began restoring the historic buildings and converting them into office buildings and mixed-use developments. LDG also began developing Larkin Square, a public park in the center of the neighborhood, that today hosts festivals, food trucks and live music.

“[Larkinville] is so representative of what the city is looking for long term,” says Leslie Zemsky, senior partner for the Larkin Development Group. In October 2015, the city of Buffalo even chose Larkinville as the location from which to announce that the Buffalo Green Code had been submitted to the city council for approval.

Zemsky says the Green Code will ensure that more neighborhoods are revitalized and renovated instead of torn down and rebuilt from scratch.

“More has gone on in Buffalo in the last four or five years than has gone on in Buffalo in the last 30.” – Rocco Termini, president and owner of Signature Development

Rocco Termini, president and owner of Signature Development, a Buffalo-based developer that specializes in historic preservation projects, agrees that there’s never been a better time to be building in the City of Good Neighbors.

“More has gone on in Buffalo in the last four or five years than has gone on in Buffalo in the last 30,” he says. “We have a new inner harbor, a medical campus that is hiring thousands of people and we have historic preservation going on all over the city.”

In 2012, Termini spearheaded the restoration of the Hotel Lafayette, a historic building in Buffalo’s downtown, designed in the French Renaissance style. The hotel had been vacant for almost 30 years and was facing demolition.

Termini is looking forward to the Green Code bringing consistency to builders in Buffalo.

“Every time a developer goes into a neighborhood and wants to build [they often hear], ‘No, it’s too big, it’s too much, it’s too everything.’ The Green Code sets standards so that the neighborhood knows ahead of time what the conditions are and what we can build.”

Residents worry

Life-long Buffalonian Tony Maggiotto isn’t surprised by the new interest in Buffalo.

“People are recognizing the great bones that Buffalo has, which are the buildings, the infrastructure and the places where community was originally defined in your pocket neighborhoods,” he says. “And I think everybody recognizes the authenticity so they want to be close to it.”

As the executive director of the Elmwood Village Association, an advocacy group that seeks to preserve and protect the historic nature of the Elmwood Village, one of Buffalo’s most iconic neighborhoods, Maggiotto places high importance on this renewed investment in the past.

Elmwood Village was even named one of the Great Places in America by the American Planning Association, a non-profit representing urban planning professionals.

But while Maggiotto sees the benefits of more transparent zoning laws, he and many other residents of Elmwood Village are skeptical of how it will pan out, especially when developers start asking for variances.

The spirit of the Green Code is for the city to review each development on a case-by-case basis, he says. “But the concern for residents is once you get one variance in everybody gets to break that rule as well, and since the document is brand new [we’re wondering] what is going to be the first scuff.”

Only time will tell. But for better or for worse, the city of Buffalo is about to face major developments.

“The whole city psyche has changed, and everyone wants to be a part of the new Buffalo,” says Zemsky.


Working with Kyle at TrueLine Publishing was a great experience. We are quite pleased with how the article about Souder Brothers turned out. The magazine article and photo spread is going to be a very effective tool to use in our marketing. If you have the opportunity to be featured in a project like this, I would recommend doing it. Kyle and his team made the whole process very smooth and we are happy to have been a part of the latest edition of US Builders Review.
— Corinne Schaffer, Project Manager, Souder Brothers Construction
The process was simple: we were provided questions that the writers wanted to discuss, we were interviewed, and then we got to see a few drafts before the final version went to print. Given the quality of this publication, on behalf of Giroux, I can assure everyone that all of my partners would be happy to participate in similar articles in the future.
— Barbara Kotsos, Director of Marketing & PR, Giroux Glass
Thank you all your efforts in putting together such a great article about our company in US Builders Review. DH Construction appreciates the professional manner in which your team worked with us to achieve the stateside exposure we were after; especially taking the time to get all of the facts correct. In short, the article was extremely well put together and we have already received a great deal of feedback, interest, and compliments as a result of the piece. Once again, we appreciate all the effort, and without a doubt, we will not hesitate to work with your organization again in the future.
— Daniel Harrigan, Principal, DH Construction
Kyle and his team were very professional and patient in explaining their program to us. Their communications were clear and concise and did a great job of guiding us through the process of getting published in their magazine.
— Michael Henthorn, Owner, Henthorn Commercial Construction
It was an absolute pleasure to work with the writers and editorial team at TrueLine Publishing for our recent article in US Builders Review. From the start of the project, it was apparent that everyone involved was very concerned with accuracy and getting the facts right. They were also very conscientious about soliciting our feedback and ensuring that we were happy with the content and with the manner in which Giroux Glass was described in the finalized piece.
— Barbara Kotsos, Director of Marketing & PR, Giroux Glass
What a great team US Builders has put in place! Having worked with Victor Martins a few years back, I was pleasantly surprised that he remembered our experience and contacted us again about an updated article. Not only did Victor brainstorm with me about content that would resonate with readers, but he assigned an excellent writer, Molly Shaw, to our account. Her interview with my client, Bardi Heating Cooling & Plumbing, was professional and succinct; as was her writing style. We had very few edits and were pleased not only with the article, but how well it was enhanced by color photos. Much appreciated!
— Karen Bird, Owner of Strategic Marketing Services, Bardi Heating Cooling & Plumbing
Professional with attention to customer’s needs. Well prepared vision for article while open to suggestions. Provided plenty feedback and review prior to final draft. Thanks in advance for the assistance and promotion of our organization!
— Jason Lee, LEED AP O+M, Director of Sustainability and Optimization for Harvard Maintenance
The staff was very helpful and easy to work with while developing our story. They were always open to our ideas and provided us useful information to maximize our visibility using social media. We were certainly pleased with final article.
— Daryl Whitmer, Marketing Program Manager, Harrison French & Associates (HFA)
I’m blown away with the value that could come out of our partnership through this article. Working with the US Builders Review team is something that I have never experienced before and every day I feel even more privileged to be with EJH Construction, I never take for granted the opportunities that have come my way.  I am so excited about what our future looks like based on the relationship that has been built with the US Builders Review team.
Jennifer Wilhelmsen – Director of Human Resources, EJH Construction Inc.
On behalf of Alfred Sanzari Enterprises, I would like to thank you for showcasing our company as a cover story in US Builders Review, and express our gratitude for a job well done in putting together an impressive editorial product. We already have received a great deal of positive feedback on the article and are confident it will be a very effective tool for sharing Alfred Sanzari Enterprises’ story, and our new hotel project, with a national audience of industry professionals. Please also extend our thanks to everyone on your team that helped in any way to produce this article. This was truly a collaborative effort.  Your staff listened to our feedback and was incredibly professional and accommodating to our requests throughout the entire process. We welcome the opportunity to collaborate with US Builders Review on future projects.
— Ryan Sanzari, Director of Operations, Alfred Sanzari Enterprises


Spring 2018



  • * We’ll never share your email or info with anyone.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.