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Jacksonville, FL looks to Buffalo for ideas to revive its downtown & waterfront

Posted at 5:42 PM, Aug 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-01 17:42:51-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Enjoying a lunch break at Clinton's Dish at Canalside on a Thursday afternoon, business leaders from Jacksonville, Florida, take in Buffalo's waterfront.

They're on a three-day trip to Buffalo to see what they might do to try and revive their downtown and waterfront.

"Downtown has become just a place to work over the past few years, and it's really a 9 to 5 city and we're trying to revive that," said Brian Wolfburg, President & CEO of VyStar Credit Union.

"Our downtown has deteriorated, it's become blighted in a lot of respects," said Jacksonville Chamber Chair Debbie Buckland.

The 37 visitors spoke with city leaders, business owners and developers about what worked in Buffalo.

"Getting people out of the buildings during the day and down on to the waterfront so they can experience how great of a city they live in works for Buffalo, absolutely works for Jacksonville," said Wolfburg.

Buckland said they considered looking at Buffalo and the way it reshaped its downtown because the city changed its own destiny.

"And I think maybe the old Buffalo story is poor Buffalo, bless its heart, you know, it's stuck with all those old buildings," said Buckland. "And the new Buffalo is job creation, it's energy, young people coming downtown to live and work."

Brian Wolfburg was born here in WNY but now lives in Jacksonville, and said the events the city puts on to bring people downtown is something they want to make happen in Florida as well.

"I grew up going to Thursday in the Square and things like that, have fond memories of it, really helps bring people downtown and to activate the store fronts and the restaurants and things after hours," he said.

The trip wraps up on Friday.