Think back to the last convention you attended. Was it in New York or Las Vegas? Maybe Dallas or Chicago? Wherever it was, it probably wasn’t Buffalo, N.Y.

The chilly Rust Belt city revamped its convention center two years ago, but it’s still struggling to attract attendees to its site. The latest lost bid really stung, The Atlantic Cities reports. “After a recent visit, the National Association of Sports Commissions decided Buffalo’s convention center was too ‘dated’ to host its 700 attendees,” Amanda Erickson writes.

Apparently the $7 million upgrade, completed in fall 2011, wasn’t enough to lure companies away from the bright lights and the big cities. So how can Buffalo compete? By playing up its quirks and repurposing unique spaces, Erickson writes. Sinking more and more money into a convention center in the hopes of high returns in the form of tourism dollars doesn’t really work when no one wants to go to your party. But if you already have the space, why not use it? “Buffalo already has countless large, underutilized spaces that would provide a unique alternative to the typical convention center and provide more than enough space,” one Buffalo blogger said. Ditch the convention center, he says, and use what Buffalo already has to offer.

Occupying eccentric, public spaces is becoming more in vogue as urban development continues to grow at a rapid rate. Loft living is now trendy and pop-up bars in cities are bustling with after-work crowds. Also, according to a Brookings Institute report, conventions aren’t nearly as lucrative as many make them out to be, so spending money on a new convention center may no longer make sense financially for smaller cities such as Buffalo. “Ultimately, the right choice for Buffalo,” Erickson writes, “might well be attracting smaller shoe-string conventions while also selling its other charms.”