7/22/2006

St. Vincents...falling down...

A real estate broker called me last week and offered St. Vincent's for a song. I went into over drive with my attorney and a handful of local artists. What I didn't know is that same day the City placed sidewalk barricades and yellow caution tape on the east side of the building. Upon closer examination you'll see from these photos that a portion of the roof and soffit collapsed. I'm going to pass on this one...
DSCN3692.jpg DSCN3694.jpg
Immediate intervention might save this building from "demolition by neglect." We briefly discussed a "private" Artspace development where local artists could build an equity interest in their own studio. There are 50 classrooms and subdivided the complex might be of interest to an organization that could provide immediate solutions to the falling bricks and collapsing structure.
David Steele over at BRO posted this in March about St. Vincent's. I posted this shortly after reading through 50 comments on David's post.
I'll put any qualified party in immediate touch with this real estate broker. A very creative real estate attorney I know, could help. I doubt the building will last the winter. Here's the map.

update...Check out the former German Roman Catholic Orphan Home, a few blocks further East. Lots of pics and historical information and guess what? No Housing Court date!
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Artspace ArchiveAnnals of NeglectBAVPAWhere is Perrysburg?Broken Promises...
Writing the CityWoodlawn Row HousesTour dé Neglect - 2006

5 comments:

Larry Bartolomei said...

St. Vincent's was designed by EB Green - this building MUST BE SAVED! See this link for more info:
http://preserve.bfn.org/bam/main/stvin/landmk.html

fix buffalo said...

Larry,

Have you toured the site recently?

larry bartolomei said...

No, I haven't. I'd like to get in touch with the Realtor - can you email contact info?
larrybartolomei@yahoo.com

Bob Biniszkiewicz said...

I am the realtor. I do commercial real estate, own some buildings on Main Street, am a Main Street proponent. I put Literacy Volunteers into Cash's Squire Mainsion. I also put Cash's Packard building under contract to a developer for apartments with tax credit funding. The funding was not approved this round, but might be next year.

I am familiar with St. Vincent's. I will get anyone through it who is serious about constructive reuse. This building may be had for a song. Does anyone have a use?

It used to be ECC City Campus after it had been a private girl's high school after it had been an orphanage.

There are fewer classrooms than I thought. I was thinking there were about 42 but am told there are only 27.

I should mention that this is the building that my developer (who wants to buy the Packard Bldg) originally had under contract. The cost of rehab made him back out.

A few years ago, Cash had (through another real estate broker) a charter school (Maritime; they subsequently went to Neil's property downtown by the 33 and Michigan).

Maritime wanted to be at St. Vincent's. Cash wanted them as tenant. The cost of the rehab was $4 million. Cash could not get funding and the school could not get fuding. Charter schools only have a guarantee of existing for five years. It is very difficult to pay back massive improvements in only five years. Where charters have been built out, it is usually because the developer (either for or non profit) is willing to take a chance and bet the school will last.

The banks don't take those chances, however. Cash couldn't get the project built.

I approached David about getting a bunch of 20 - 30 somethings together to buy the building for a song and pitch in to fix the major things and sell off classrooms as coop or condo units that each buyer would fix up on their own.

Problem is, the cost of common stuff is pretty big. Cash and I figure between $1.5 - $2 million between roof, HVAC, windows, sprinklers, floors, electric services (to each unit, but not built out in units), elevator, rough plumbing (again, hookups in each unit, but no baths or sinks or anything; just the capability) and so forth.

With only 27 classrooms to sell, that leave a bill of $60,000-$80,000 per unit before you fix the unit up inside. Not economically attractive in our market. If this were the coasts, it would be a slam dunk. Thank god it's not the coasts and we can afford housing, but it makes conversions tougher, naturally.

Before everybody beats up on Cash, look at some history of both this complex and next door.

Cash bought the Packard building and moved his operation from Amherst (near the 290 and Main) to mid city Main Street, Buffalo. He fixed up the place and put great offices upstairs, uses the showroom, fixed that up nicely. He's been a good owner of the Packard building.

St. Vincents had been vacant for over a decade when Cash bought it.

A roof had collapsed in a section now demolished. More was on its way down and Cash intended, frankly, to knock it all down when he bought it. He saw the highest and best value to the property as a parking lot for his Packard building and as a potential development site.

Preservationists prevented him from knocking down the front (original) section of the Squire Mainsion in court. Thank you, preservationists.

Cash accepted the ruling and instead of sitting on the property as 90% of developer/owners do when they can't knock down what they want to, Cash spent his own cash and fixed the joint up. He did a very nice job. The preservationists even honored him for the results.

When construction was underway, I showed it to Literacy Volunteers who committed to the space. They love it.

I've had bites on the gym (for innovative medical space), but nothing that ultimately went forward.

I would love to save St. Vincents. It's a great and important landmark and if we can just get it through the next five years, funding for something will come about because of all the other activity up and down Main Street that will become evident in the next year and two and three.

How to get it past the next five years?

1. Get Control: Get an interested group together and commit to buying it, for a song.

2. Seal the building. It's not rocket science. Plywood and plexiglass. Get something on the roof. There's not that much inside that can get damaged badly, but knock down the loose stuff.

3. After you knock down all the soffit that wants to fall, spend the next year or three making wood replicas of all the pieces you'll need for the roof when your group has the money. This is hobby stuff; time consuming high dollar repair stuff that your group could do in its spare time (if you have woodworkers among you).

4. Attract like minded preservationists who also happen to be tradespeople. Get electricians and plumbers into your ownership group. Get a roofer into the group. attract people with skill who get a stake in the project.

I don't know. I've had a few ideas, but it is desparation time for this landmark. So instead of wringing our hands and deriding the current owner, let's put our heads together and come up with an idea that works.

Bob

Anonymous said...

It is great that Cash has invested in the city but what good is it if he allows this one to rot away. Why not do simple routine mantainence in the first place. Why not have a roof that does not leak. The building did not need to get to this state!