"Unique, diverse, affordable"

University Heights marketing video world premiere

The Spectrum

On Wednesday, Oct. 24, the University Heights Collaborative (UHC) held a red carpet event at Allen Hall on UB's South Campus to celebrate the release of a marketing video that promoted the Heights as "unique, diverse and affordable."

UHC has a vision: "A University Heights neighborhood that is safe and has a vibrant business district utilizing and revitalizing walkability, diversity, affordable housing stock and green space where people desire to live."

After the showing, some attendees mentioned concerns regarding the high crime rate and deteriorating homes in the area. These issues were not addressed in the video or in the speakers' presentations.

"It has gone from being a safe, mostly single-family neighborhood to being a problem. There is crime everywhere, but people want to live where it's safe. I hope it can only go up from here," said Gregory Brown, who created the production script for the video along with his wife, Yvonne James-Brown. They are long-time Heights residents and UB alums, and they have seen the area morph over the last 30 years.

The video was funded by a grant from Independent Health, and two restaurants located in the Heights - Lake Effect Diner and The Steer - sponsored the promotional event. Key Bank sponsored the cocktail reception that followed the premiere.

Part one of the video consisted of a vignette created by students of the Buffalo Academy of the Visual and Performing Arts, which highlighted the historical Parkside Candy Shop, Linear Park and Minnesota Avenue as treasures of the University Heights neighborhood.

The Parkside Candy shop montage depicted the architectural and historical significance of its Main Street and Winspear Avenue location. Footage of graffiti on a tree and a few potted plants were depicted in the Linear Park section of the vignette and the "charm and wholesomeness" of Minnesota Avenue were detailed in the third section of the piece.

The second part of the showing upset some viewers, like Dan Ryan, UB's director of off-campus relations.

He noted an illustrated map shown in the video "did not accurately represent the Heights area." For example, some restaurants highlighted in the video are located on the far North side of Hertel Avenue, like La Dolce Vita - a stretch in the promotion of "walkability," Ryan said.

The video described the Main Street and Bailey Avenue median as "a soothing ribbon of green space," with a transit system that easily transports residents.

"The UHC serves as an umbrella organization which represents neighborhood watch groups and block clubs in the Heights community," according to the press release issued by UHC.

The only block club mentioned in the video was the Heath Street block club.

Attendee Martha Meegan, a vocal member of the Montrose Avenue block club, said she was "disappointed that many of the other block clubs were not recognized for their work."

She was upset her own block club and Merrimac Street block club, which have "also put in many volunteer hours and dollars into beautification and student outreach to try to attack neighborhood issues at a grassroots level," went unrecognized in the video.

Meegan also expressed her frustration with inattentive landlords who neglect to comply with Buffalo city building codes.

Mickey Vertino, UHC's media representative, plans to invite landlords to "a secret meeting" - no building inspectors or media allowed - in order to promote an open and non-judgmental discussion concerning property upkeep and maintaining good relationships with the single-family residents in the area.

"I hope this will be a positive step in continuing restoration of the Heights community," Vertino said.

UB was represented at the premiere. Megan E. Toohey, director of State Relations, and Michael J. Pietkiewicz, assistant vice president for Government and Community Relations, are both from the president's office. Linwood Roberts, neighborhood outreach coordinator from Community Relations, attended and spoke, as well. No police from UB or the City of Buffalo were present at the event.

"UB police are not really supposed to patrol the Heights area," Roberts said. "That job is up to Buffalo City Police."

UHC wants to "maintain and enhance the quality of life within the University Heights by working with residents, property owners, block clubs, UB staff and students, law enforcement, business owners and elected officials." The group hopes to better the Heights and attract new homeowners to the area.

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