Challenged Buffalo? - Let me know...

When I decided to move to my neighborhood, I saw beauty. Underneath the boards and the neglect I saw something I liked. I invested. It's what I do. Take a long position...deal with the ups and downs...and know that the fundamentals - in this case, location near transit, cultural assets and national register status - are firmly in place.

There are times I've wondered. I've asked myself, am I swimming up stream in my desire to live on this side, the other side, of Main Street? Then there are times, I'm firmly convinced that I arrived here in this little corner of Masten 10 years ahead of the wave. I was reminded last week over lunch and after a tour of various emerging neighborhoods here in Buffalo with a well seasoned developer of the importance of the difference. We know what happens to salmon after swimming up stream...

Received an email this morning from Mike Miller. He blogs at Shades of Gray and spends huge amounts of time at the Central Terminal as a board member and volunteer. He called my attention to the debate swirling around the Atwater House on Elmwood and the lack of attention by the same group of people to the beauty and challenge here on the City's East side. Like myself, Mike would like you to look further East and see the beauty and emerging potential in neighborhoods long forgotten.
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Here's Mike's post - A Challenge to my Fellow Preservationists

Today, I've left Buffalo twice already and returned a third time. I know it's not even lunch time. Part of the ups and downs. A few moments ago, with third cup of coffee in hand, I looked out the front window and saw the the new home of Performing Arts HS. Now, looking out the window next to my desk, I see the top of Artspace a few blocks away. 50m of public investment in the arts/education in my neighborhood.

I'm patient.
Artspace ArchiveAnnals of NeglectBAVPAWhere is Perrysburg?Broken Promises...
Writing the CityWoodlawn Row Housesfaqmy flickr


Anonymous said...

I'm patient too, David. I've been with the CTRC for almost 4 years now and 1 year with Broadway Fillmore Alive.

I tell anyone and everyone who will listen, about the amazing potential of the east side, including local and international developers. Its time will come. I wouldn't put up with this kind of frustration if I didn't think that.

I just get so tired being lumped in with preservationists who seem to be concerned only with the downtown hub and the west side. We here on the east side are realistic and know that we can't save everything. It's a tremendous battle to save even ONE building sometimes.

I just wish it was different.

fixBuffalo said...


The CT is often referred to as the best loved building in Buffalo...you've helped make this happen.

I'm zen on the ups/downs of my neighborhood here on the near East side. We are so used to having what we really want, right now. My view is decidedly longer than most.

There are times that I wish things were different, too. Yet in the end perhaps we should adjust our thinking somewhat and realize that we have what amounts to (well almost) a blank slate in front of us.

Other cities have competing interests. We, well, pretty much have just ourselves.

Again, Mike...your tenacity is contagious...thanks.

Unknown said...

The stone on this home is the big deal. It is Medina Sandstone which if I am correct is no longer avail. Wonder what the cost would be to take down the stone, save any woodwork or fixtures and build a new home somewhere else. I doubt that the stone can be moved. The structure, although impressive can be rebuilt to today's standards.

Anonymous said...

i hope that someone will be able to move the house. it really is a delightful structure.

Anonymous said...

I’d like to note that there were at least a dozen messages on BIA that totally ignored my question as to why no one cared about the east side. The only ones who replied, besides Cynthia and one other lady, were friends and supporters of the east side, namely Chris Byrd, David and Kevin Hayes.

I know it sounds like I am beating a dead horse. But that’s exactly what I don’t want the east side to be, a dead horse. I’ll keep bringing this issue up until someone listens.

It’s a dirty shame that I have to work so damned hard to get people in my own area to care, when a simple open letter can garner the attention and interest of an international developer.

Wake up, Buffalo.

Anonymous said...

I think some of it may come down to visibility and effort wihich effects the number of people dedicated.

People are easier attracted to a percieved threat to a healthier area. So I think you will find a greater number of people fighting here. They can see what is there now and point to to other areas for what could happen with the wrong planning. It is an easier sell to get people involved and passionate about this type of area. Success' are already there and easier to come by.

Once you move to the "gone wrong areas" I think it is natural and expected to see a big drop off in those with interest and passion. You are left with a minority of "foolish" at this time to attempt to build some nice hot embers that others will migrate to and help feed. Once success in these areas is demonstrated the next level of risk takers will move until hopefully someday you have moved up the ladder to the no-risk people returning.

Though I must say I've been surpised at the support (or maybe lack of being called nuts) when I have talked to friends and family about tackling a place like 97 Dodge for my residence. Though I do know I would never see them there.

I've also always been stumpped too on lack of local effort. But after reading books like "Power Failure" etc. I can understand while a majority of older people would be jaded by the city. We also have a large younger generation fed stereotypes about an area that they have never personally experienced on any level higher than a drive through. Also schools teach us about Prussia, but almost nothing on local history. So, I can see why they are a tough sell too.

Its going to take a long effort by those strong enough to venture down into the engine room to do the dirty work necessary to stop the ship from sinking. In the meantime the passengers, deck crew, and captain will remain only worried about finding the highest part of the sinking ship.

fixBuffalo said...


I often use the Titanic as analogy to describe what is happening here in Buffalo.

In this case Elmwood Avenue is the deck and most people are blissfully unaware or choose to ignore what's happening under the deck.

Remember the scene from the movie? People were clamoring to get to the deck. They were desperate.

In this case, as life perhaps changes for EV denizens - have heard recently of home invasions, random murder on Bedford last summer, etc - they will realize that we are really all in the same boat. Don't know.

Hear all the time about people planning to leave Buffalo...they are here/there and rather afraid of the long haul.

Those who can afford to leave - jump ship - do so, perhaps at a rate that we are afraid to examine. Those who stay - are getting out on deck and often are making life miserable for those who haven't left.

fixBuffalo said...


All that said...we slog on! Understand the frustration full well.

My petition to help "Save the Woodlawn Row Houses" gathered less than 200 signatures in 2.5 years. Despite the place being a "local landmark"...where the Pano Petition last count I heard had over 3000 names.

And so it goes...

Anonymous said...

Without a doubt, David. We will slog on. I'm in it for the long haul.

I plan on doing all I can, even if that means stirring things up a bot every now and then. It all starts with awareness. Some people would rather live in denial. Those are the people that need to come down from their lofty perches and see what the reality is in our city.

WestCoastPerspective said...

Very interesting discussion. I think MJ is on to it:

"Once you move to the "gone wrong areas" I think it is natural and expected to see a big drop off in those with interest and passion."

I don't know what it is going to take to turn around the East Side- most everyone has their heads in the sand. The problem appears to be so large that most everyone chooses to ignore it or hopes it fixes itself. Where are the elected leaders to fight for these neighborhoods? Where is the plan?

Kudos to David and others who have staked a claim and keep fighting. Most everyone thinks they have a little pioneering spirit in them, but to buy and invest in a neighborhood that is perceived as beyond repair or hope is a giant leap. Now if potential buyers/investors knew that there was a long-term plan and committment by the City and others to improve an area- that might be enough 'comfort' to encourage rebirth and investment. Until then, few people with means to buy elsewhere are going to move to the east side.

Mike is also right that there needs to be a citywide preservation plan- identify those properties or districts that must be preserved and fight like hell to save them.

fixBuffalo said...

West Coast & others...

Just up on my roof (row house, flat roof - don't worry) taking construction pictures of the new Performing Arts HS. When I turn and look south I see the new Artspace building. TOTAL WOW!

Both projects broke ground at the same time, have a similar mission and will open later this summer at the same time. Alway think of these as sister projects and feeding off of one another. I'll be meeting with Artspace peeps next week to explore linkages...HEY FOLKS - THIS IS AMAZING STUFF here on the City's near East side.

Come on over...Saturdays at 11am. Meet-up at the Sonic Cafe on Main Street and spend an hour walking around the neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

I think you need to ask: Where are the East Side residents, when it comes to preservation issues in their own area? There must be many more than 200 people near Woodlawn, who could have signed that petition.

fixBuffalo said...


Rest assured. I have 30+ names of residents in the immediate area who have also signed a hard copy...

Problem is that the Row Houses are viewed as just another vacant City owned building. Dozens around here...and many of those people who signed a few years ago no longer live in the neighborhood.

Don't know where you get the 200 number...

Anonymous said...

I got the 200 number from you, don't you remember?

"My petition to help "Save the Woodlawn Row Houses" gathered less than 200 signatures in 2.5 years."

And the Atwater house was destroyed this afternoon ... I feel sick.

Mark Williams said...

Please allow me to applaud an excellent expose on the Atwater House.

I am a preservationist at heart but I have the structural knowledge and appreciation for the need for expansion and growth in order to keep a community vibrant.

My vain attempts to become a proactive supporter of preservation in the City of Buffalo were thwarted by the autocratic Tim Tielman and his groupies whose philosophy, ostensibly, is to save everything.

Unfortunately, I disagreed with his approach and was banished from the Land of Oz.

Oddly, I do not see him throwing-up his roadblocks on too many East side properties.

Though, he should be commended on many of his success stories there are still the more questionable ones such as the Vernor’s Building that is one of the most visible eyesores to ever be allowed to remaining standing only because of the judicial roadblocks that he and Scott Fields have been allowed to implement.

Pick and chose your battles is a cry that is not heard enough; the preservationist should be looking at more adequate structures such as the H.H. Richardson Complex to resurrect which would make an ideal assisted living facility for our aging baby-boomer population.

In order to save this building compromise should be the word of the day and not total preservation.

Remove the three brick, former female wards, in order to return a form of symmetry to the design and restore the medina sandstone pavilions and towers. This is not a new or unusual concept, perhaps, in time, the pavilion lost to neglect could be replaced and rebuilt according to the original plans of the entire complex being constructed out of medina sandstone.

I may be digressing but I am attempting to show an ideal situation which could be a win-win scenario.

I can fully understand and appreciate the general public’s passion for a certain building but compromise is the only solution.

Black Rock Advocate said...

Pano's has bitten the hand that feeds him. His establishment is not popular because of his menu but because of his location.