Neighborhood Plan - Part IV

The Neighborhood Plan created by Belmont Shelter calls for the construction of a 'clubhouse' on Michigan Avenue near Best. Here's the sketch.

It was explained to me that the 'clubhouse' would serve as a place for residents to do laundry and hold planned activities in the neighborhood. While access to laundry machines is certainly essential in any neighborhood, can it really argued that the quarter-million dollars being spent to house four laundry machines and a "community room" represents the highest use of public resources? Is the use of this quarter million dollars really being used imaginatively to the maximum benefit of the neighborhood?
Say for instance, this 'clubhouse' concept, which reminds one of the obligatory "community rooms" set up near public housing projects in the 1950s, were revamped? If you were a public official tasked with spending $250k to create a community amenity, is this "clubhouse" how you would spend it?
Take this building, for example: the former Joseph Denzel Tavern at 1325 Michigan - a few short blocks away from the planned 'clubhouse.' Could this become the sort of entrepenurial space that would help build a real community? The opportunity is so obvious. Why is it being ignored?
Imagine if you were handed a check for $250,000 for something other than housing, a few blocks from Main Street for the purpose of helping to restore and rebuild a neighborhood. What's the best use of these funds - xeroxing a 'clubhouse' into the neighborhood or renovating of one of the neighborhood's last remaining heritage commercial buildings.

Take a look at the rest of the plan when you have a moment. Dip into the comment stream and let me know what you think is best.
Neighborhood Plan background - Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V and Part VI
ArtspaceBAVPAWoodlawn Row HousesfixBuffalo flickr
Creative ClassShrinking CitiesSaturdays in the neighborhood


Susan said...

This outrage appears to get more and more outrageous the more you write about it, Dave.

Is this really what the City wants to show off as the spin-off of its considerable investment in Artspace around the corner? Or are they really trying to humiliate themselves?

Good concept to point out an alternative to this waste of taxpayer dollars. The "community room" with attached bathrooms, trash room, and laundry machines is a pretty unimaginative concept given the other opportunities that exist here. It does remind me not only of public housing projects but also of Ryan Homes subdivisions in Wheatfield - except in this case there's no pool. You'd almost think you really weren't two blocks from a subway station.

It seems Belmont really appears to be creating a mini-me of its Main Street corporate bunker on Michigan Avenue. All that's missing is the metal bars on the windows.

Hopefully, as you say, these resources can be applied to create a *real* neighborhood amenity that has lasting value - instead of something planners will wish they could demolish soon after its construction.

Clockhill said...

It's sad when genuine community has been malnourished and mistreated for long enough that Belmont Shelter feels it has to be cultivated (it's sadder though that Belmont Shelter believes genuine community CAN BE cultivated; it can NOT).

Too bad they've designed another useless meaningless building that offers no natural destination for area residents, and no inherent reason to host local gatherings (the few it may allow). Events will be forced, underattended, and (of COURSE) subsidized.

Who pays to keep the community shelter open for the community?

Anonymous said...

This money must be used more effectively. The corporation involved obviously has good intentions. Are they willing to rethink their "plan"? Is there any way to work with Belmont on this? Do they not know better? Or do they just not care?

Anonymous said...

In this neighborhood, like many others, churches are already serving as "community rooms." They host meetings, they offer needed services, they inspire activism. The neighborhood is already well-supplied with churches.

What if the $250K was use to help seed some entrepreneurs to open shops & services for the new residents, thereby getting more property, rather than less, on to the tax rolls?

Parker said...

I guess Belmont should have invited you to that public meeting!

Bldg Sci Guy said...

Belmont likely has good intentions beyond just doing a project that looks like a benefit but only actually helps their own bottom line. Interestingly, this project appears to be planned as if it is being built in a greenfield in the hinterlands. It is now obvious to me that taking into account the existing neighborhood or urban fabric is antithetical to this project. Apparently the plan is to ignore what is already around and how it is built and relates to it. The plan must assume that everything around will also continue to degrade and be replaced with more of the same in this plan.

In other words, this isn't something that can be a game changer, it will only perpetuate the status quo. If the status quo is considered a succuss then this is the right plan.

It is too bad that strategic thinking isn't something that happens in Buffalo's decentralized housing policy.

This is why I quit Belmont said...

Belmont cares about Belmont and its subsidiary for-profit construction, development and property ownership companies. These for-profit companies are owned by _____________ and return profits to ____________.
(Fill in the blanks)

That is who Belmont cares about. The poor and the poor neighborhoods are a superb means to their ends.

Why doesn't Belmont address the root causes of their client base rather than perpetuate their circumstances? Because of the profit to be had in servicing their clients.

Belmont is as in touch with their purpose as the New York Power Authority is. Bitch about it and they will react till the (rate hike::Hamilton Ward House) crisis is over, then back to business as usual. Raises anyone?

Bldg Sci Guy said...

You're right, the pattern fits your description.

Anonymous said...

David, What are the Housing Court violations on the Denzel Tavern building ? The Court just lists a demo agreement. Could this building be purchased and "mothballed" to be used in the future ? Seems a shame to send it to the landfill.

Anonymous said...

I live in a Belmont building, and to be honest they couldn't manage a McDonalds let alone any more buildings.