Ralph Wilson Park is an anchor within Buffalo’s West Side neighborhood. Generations of families have spent countless hours playing on the fields, picnicking in the park, and enjoying the waterfront. Each year, more adults and children from throughout the region discover Buffalo’s largest waterfront park.
The $110M design and development of Ralph Wilson Park began in 2018 with a lead gift from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation to the City of Buffalo. Since then, funders and community stakeholders have worked to fulfill the vision for Ralph Wilson Park, adding elements that include a signature pedestrian bridge across the I-190 to increase community access to the park and the waterfront, a destination play garden for active-imaginative play, as well as a resilient shoreline to mitigate the effects of climate change and rising lake levels.
World-class amenities will feature soccer fields, baseball and softball diamonds, tennis courts, various playground areas with custom equipment, picnic shelters and concession stands, and miles of pedestrian and bike paths. In addition to these new or revamped features, high-valued community amenities such as the swimming pool, splash pad, skate park, dog park, and football field will remain.
Imagine LaSalle was the multi-year, community-driven effort to transform the former LaSalle Park into a world-class destination that will serve the nearby neighbors and residents of Western New York as a “people’s park” and attract tourists to the region. Thousands of partners, community members, and stakeholders have been involved in the planning and designing of this signature, year-round attraction.
Nearby neighbor groups, community centers, not-for-profit organizations, and local youth and adult sports clubs were active in planning the park’s transformation, as well as leaders of signature events in the park, such as the Buffalo Funk Fest and the Puerto Rican and Hispanic Day Parade. These organizations, community leaders, and individuals will continue to play in important role in the Conservancy as park users, stakeholders, and ambassadors.
Partnerships Contributed to Process
This community-led design process was made possible through the generosity of the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation in 2018, with support from the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo and the City of Buffalo. The University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning and one of its research centers, the UB Regional Institute (UBRI), managed the engagement process to ensure broad and meaningful community input to shape the park’s future. Visit the Imagine LaSalle website for a complete timeline and documents from throughout the process.
The City of Buffalo is an active project partner represented by its Division of Parks and Recreation, the Buffalo Urban Development Corporation (BUDC), the Department of Community Services and Recreational Programming, and the Mayor’s Office of Strategic Planning.
The design and development of Ralph Wilson Park was inspired and informed by Imagine LaSalle, a multi-year, community-driven initiative that began in January 2018, led by the University at Buffalo Regional Institute (UBRI) to guide the transformation of the park. Thousands of partners, community members, and stakeholders have been involved in the planning and design of this signature, year-round attraction, meeting regularly to move the design forward over the past five plus years, including throughout the pandemic. We will be highlighting these partners regularly to draw attention to the hard work and collaboration of so many that has brought us to the beginning of construction.
Buffalo Funk Fest and Jefferson Avenue Friday Night Lights
Next in our series of Partner Profiles, we are thrilled to feature significant community events led our very own Marnetta Malcolm. Marnetta is the founder of Buffalo Funk Fest, one of the longest running and largest events in the park (thousands of people attend each year, for nearly two decades), and the brand new Jefferson Avenue Friday Night Live series. Marnetta was a member of the Imagine LaSalle focus group that led the community-driven planning and design of Ralph Wilson Park and is currently the Vice Chair of RWPC’s Board of Directors.
When one ends, the other begins
Buffalo Funk Fest, a tribute concert to Buffalo’s Rick James, began after the superstar’s death in 2004. It has always been – and remains – a free music festival open to all. The event took place in the former LaSalle Park until 2019, and moved to MLK Park after the pandemic as construction was set to begin on transforming Ralph Wilson Park. Read more about this year’s exciting new series!