In 2016, the New York State Grantmakers for Community Engagement, Open Society Foundations, and the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo co-sponsored a funder learning tour in Buffalo, NY. The learning tour brought together community-based leaders, policymakers, and funders to discuss effective and replicable community engagement strategies for advancing an equitable regional agenda that engages the leadership of all community residents.


  • A Look at the Waterfront Development, Central Wharf

Andy Reynolds, the communications organizer for the Coalition for Economic Justice, and Robert Gioia, the president of the John R. Oishei Foundation and chairman of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation presented on the revitalization of the Buffalo waterfront including the community benefits agreement that was created for the Canal Side development.

  • Buffalo River History Tour

The Buffalo River History Tour, included a review of the the Erie Canal development, the nation’s largest collection of standing grain elevators, and Buffalo’s history as the largest grain port in the world.

  • A Panel Discussion at the Larkin Building

The opening panel was moderated by Sam Magavern, Co-Director, Partnership for the Public Good and included Laura Quebral, Associate Director, State University of New York at Buffalo Regional Institute; Jason T. Garrett, Program Officer, Open Society Foundations Open Places Initiative; and Mary Anne Schmitt-Carey, President, Say Yes to Education, Inc. The panel provided a framework for understanding the Buffalo regional landscape as it exists today and to provide examples of community and resident engagement have an impact on the civic infrastructure.

  • A bus tour of the following important and historical sites around Buffalo that tell the story of its revitalization
  • Buffalo Central Terminal
Buffalo Central Terminal


The Buffalo Central Terminal opened to the public on June 22, 1929. Built by the New York Central Railroad, the art deco style station was built to accommodate up to 3,200 passengers per hour, or 200 trains per day. The complex sits on a 17 acre site 2.5 miles east of downtown Buffalo.

Marilyn Rodgers, Executive Director, Buffalo Central Terminal Restoration Corporation; Carl Skompinski, Fillmore Corridor Neighborhood Coalition; and Chris Byrd, neighborhood resident and blogger for Broadway Fillmore Alive spoke about this cultural landmark and the extraordinary efforts to restore it and the surrounding neighborhood, including resident engagement strategies.

  • Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus

The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus is a consortium of the region’s premier health care, life sciences research, and medical education institutions, all located on 120 acres in downtown Buffalo.

  • PUSH Buffalo Green Development Zone

Tour participants walked through the PUSH Buffalo Green Development Zone and heard from staff, members, and community residents about diverse and dynamic community building, community development, and economic revitalization through land reuse, housing and workforce development.

  • West Side Bazaar

The Bazaar is a small business incubator supporting entrepreneurs, in particular, immigrant entrepreneurs to help them build sound community-based business models.

  • The Learning Tour Concluded with two panels:

The first panel was facilitated by  Kevin Ryan, program director at the New York Foundation, featured Maurice Mitchell, coordinator of The New York Civic Engagement Table; Erin Heaney, director at Clean Air Coalition of WNY; and Louisa Pacheco the director of Gamaliel Western New York and lead organizer at VOICE Buffalo about their local and statewide community engagement strategies.

The second panel was moderated by Jerry Maldonado, program officer at the Ford Foundation moderated a peer learning panel with Blythe Merrill, senior vice president at the John R. Oishei Foundation and Dr. Hank Rubin, vice president of community programs at the Rochester Area Community Foundation that focused on each of their institution’s strategies for supporting community and resident engagement. The panelists also shared their perspective on strengthening regional infrastructure and promoting increased philanthropic, public, and private sector collaborative in their local communities and across the state.