GLF Grain Elevator: Demolition Hearing - Part I

The City's Preservation Board voted unanimously on Thursday afternoon to table Ontario Specialty Contracting's request to demolish portions of the GLF/Wheeler grain elevator complex on Ganson Street.  The meeting room was packed with people who were on both sides of this emerging preservation issue involving one of the City's most important industrial heritage sites.
Ron Chapin - on the right
After an hour long discussion with Ron Chapin - from Ontario Specialty Contracting - the Preservation Board decided to table OSC's request to demolish parts "B" and "C" because the application was determined to be incomplete.   OSC presented a number of photographs - here, here and here - depicting a deteriorating structure.  The Preservation Board is asking OSC to provide an engineering study to determine the real condition of these structures.  In addition Henry Baxter, internationally recognized expert on concrete elevator design and structural condition has generously made his services available to assist the Preservation Board in making a decision about the future of GLF.  Henry Baxter's grandfather - A.E. Baxter - designed and built portions of GLF.    
Ontario Specialty Contracting - one of the City's premier demolition contractors - purchased portions of the GLF complex last October.  GLF is immediately adjacent to OSC's office and heavy equipment storage site on Ganson Street.  The photo below shows the portions of the GLF complex that OSC owns and the location - two single story buildings next door - of their headquarters.   Here's a bing map if you're not familiar with the area.  The remaining portion of the GLF elevator was last reported two years ago to be on the market for $3.5M.  Here's that story.  
The significance of Buffalo's remaining industrial heritage sites can not be emphasized enough.  Even in their neglected state they are stark and subtle reminders of our glorious past.  They are frequently studied and photographed.  German photographer Gerritt Engel was here in 90's and our collection of elevators was the subject of his first book and exhibit - Buffalo Grain Elevators.  Here's a recent video where he's interviewed about his work.
1994 photo (HAER credit) of  GLF from Chicago Street and a recent photo from the same location. 
More recently a number of community activists and organizations have taken a strong position on the deep cultural value of Buffalo's waterfront and the importance of these long neglected industrial heritage sites.  Make sure to watch the following video about this powerful and emerging voice describing how the City of Buffalo is being reinvented.  
Prior to Thursday's meeting I spoke with two community leaders who support the Ontario Speciality Contracting position and demolition.  Here's the short podcast (5:17) with Laura Kelly, Executive Director of the Old First Ward Community Association.  I also spoke with Peg Overdorf, who is the Executive Director of the Valley Community Center.  Here's that short podcast (3:24).   Riverfest Park - aka 'Peg's Park' - is located opposite GLF on the other side of the Buffalo River. 
The full recording of Thursday's Preservation Board hearing about the planned demolition of portions of the GLF Elevator is available - here (68:30).  
This preservation battle has only begun.  Support letters should be addressed to Preservation Board Secretary Michelle Brozek:  Buffalo Preservation Board - 65 Niagara Sq. #901 - Buffalo, NY 14202
building index • fixBuffalo flickr • creative class • shrinking cities • americansuburbX
spacing toronto • infrastructurist • inhabitat


Homestead: 226 East Utica - December 2010

I met-up with Joshua Reis and Emily Gaines the other day.  We talked about their work and plans for one of the City's newest homesteads - 226 East Utica (google map).  Joshua recently closed on the formerly City-owned house and is plowing forward with a contagious mix of grit and grace with his  partner, Emily.

226 East Utica - Buffalo, NY

Josh is drawing inspiration for his work from his studies at the Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute, which he attended in 2009.  Since taking courses at the institute, Joshua has continued his interest in permaculture,  reading books such as Gaia's Garden and Edible Forest Gardens.  He also gained insight from an on-line resource - Permaculture Activist.   Emily teaches music at the Bennett Park Montessori Center in Buffalo, NY.  During the past year she has participated in dance and  drumming classes around the corner from her new homestead at the African-American Cultural Center on Masten Avenue. For her, this has been an exciting continuation of almost 8 years of study of African music.  Emily is new to the ideas of permaculture and is living proof that the ideas of urban farming are accessible to anyone who believes in his/her community.

226 East Utica - Buffalo, NY

A fellow community member and friend, Matt Zinski is the architect for this project.  Matt was featured in a recent Artvoice article about his Capoiera classes on the West Side.  Joshua is his student and the Capoeira community has been instrumental in the progress made at 226 East Utica so far.

226 East Utica - Buffalo, NY

fixBuffalo readers may remember this post about 226 East Utica (March 2008).  While a number of people have expressed an interest in calling 226 home, Joshua and Emily are doing it.  Stop by and visit and/or keep track of their progress in this Facebook album - Solrise Farm.

Here's a podcast with Joshua and Emily (after the jump, running time nine minutes).


Norquist on Buffalo's Future

John Norquist, former Mayor of Milwaukee and President of the Congress for the New Urbanism, was in Buffalo recently and spoke at the Burchfield Penny Art Center.

The podcast of Norquist's remarks - Part I - runs about an hour after the jump.

The panel discussion that followed was led by Kate Foster - Director of UB's Institute for Local Governance and Regional Growth and featured two of Buffalo's most progressively minded urban developers: Carl Montante and Rocco Termini.  They were joined by Jacques Gourguechon, a Principal of Camiros the firm retained by the City of Buffalo to undertake the complete over-haul of the city's antiquated 1951 zoning ordinance.

The podcast of the morning's panel discussion and Q&A - Part II - runs about an hour, after the jump.

The website of the Buffalo Green Code, the title Mayor Byron Brown has given the zoning re-write effort, was formally unveiled by Jacques Gourguechon during the forum.  The event was sponsored by Jaeckle, Fleishman & Muegel LLP and was part of their annual WNY Economic & Land Development Forum.  


St. Gerard's Fate - Update

The following story about St. Gerard's Church appeared on ABC News this past Sunday.   Built in 1911, this iconic neighborhood heritage structure is modeled after the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, and is located at the corner of Bailey and East Delevan on Buffalo's East Side (google map).

Rev. David Dye and his congregation plan to move St. Gerard's to Norcross, GA.  They've included a catalog of naming opportunities on their site to help raise the $16.5m necessary for the demolition/move/re-building of one of Buffalo's architectural treasurers.  With increased national exposure and Buffalo's largest preservation organization - PBN's statement about St. Gerard's - signing off on the plan, the suburban Atlanta congregation may get their way.

The text of ABC's Sunday story is available here.

See - The Plundering of Buffalo with links to additional pics and writing about St. Gerard's including last February's USA Today article about moving St. Gerard's to suburban Atlanta.

Update - here's the full text of the Common Council resolution - sponsored by Buffalo Common Council President David Franczyk - designed to stop the plundering of the city's architectural resources.  The resolution was adopted by the Common Council and is currently being conformed into law by the City's Law Department.  According to Council staff it is expected to become law by year's end.  
building index • fixBuffalo flickr • creative class • shrinking cities • americansuburbX
spacing toronto • infrastructurist • inhabitat


What Remains - One year later

One year ago today the Woodlawn Row Houses were razed in an emergency demolition following a late-night fire. The row, designated a City landmark in 1982, was owned by the City of Buffalo. Here's the archive of pics and posts.
What remains
What remains - charred shingle
The year that followed the fire has seen two development projects initiated in the neighborhood. Both bring some hope. The faith-based housing projects, developed by Reverends Pridgen and Stenhouse, respectively, form book-ends on opposite ends of Woodlawn Avenue. A number of single family homes have been developed - here and here.
The vacant City-owned lot, where the Woodlawn Row Houses once stood
Alternatively, a number of architecturally significant and urbanistically unique City-owned residential properties in Midtown continue to languish. The fate of 94 Northampton, 393 Masten and 11 Holland Place remains uncertain. Two of these properties - 393 Masten and 11 Holland Place - are part of a two-year old City sponsored subsidized rehab program, yet no progress has been made. 94 Northampton was nearly demolished earlier this year, but was given a stay of execution by Jim Comerford, Commissioner of Permits & Inspection.
A year later, one landmark burned, have we made progress? Are we learning?
building indexfixBuffalo flickrcreative classshrinking citiesamericansuburbX
spacing torontoinfrastructuristinhabitat


Tour de Agros - East Side by Bike!

The city's East Side is being transformed, vacant lot by vacant lot. In the last two years parts of Buffalo's urban prairie has been transformed into urban farms. If you're curious and have ever wondered what this development means for the City, join me on Saturday June 19th for the first Tour de Agros!

View Tour de Agros 2010 in a larger map

We'll meet at the Sonic Cafe, across from Artspace for a 10am departure. Our three hour route will loop through the City's East side. We'll stop at three urban farms. You'll have a chance to talk with some of the most dedicated city residents who are committed to transforming the city - Caesandra Seawell/Buffalo ReUse - Daniel Ash at Southampton & Masten and our last stop will include the Wilson Street Farm and a visit with Mark and Janice Stevens. Between the three scheduled stops - we'll also take time to examine the urban prairie.

Previous bicycle tours have focused on the City's neglected heritage structures - Tour de Neglect. The new focus on urban agriculture here in Buffalo reflects a wider trend in other urban centers. Here's the map.


group pic - Tour de Neglect
Please make certain your bicycle is in good working condition. You may want to bring the following - water, some snack food, camera and a few bags as you may want to take a few moments to pick and pay for some fresh vegetables along the way.

Date/time: Saturday June 19th - 10am

Meet-up: Sonic Cafe, across from Artspace.

A $10 donation will be collected and given to St. Luke's Mission of Mercy on Sycamore Street. There's no pre-registration necessary. See you on the 19th!

building indexfixBuffalo flickrcreative classshrinking citiesamericansuburbX
spacing torontoinfrastructuristinhabitat


Drew Ludwig: the future of church - Part I

I met Rev. Drew Ludwig from Lafayette Presbyterian Church last week (google map). We sat down this morning in the church's sanctuary and talked about the use/re-use of religious structures in the context of a shrinking-city.


Rev. Drew Ludwig - Lafayette Presbyterian Church

Drew pointed to a number of religious buildings that have been repurposed in Pittsburgh - including the Church Brew Works - and the Centre for Social Innovation in Toronto as possible models for the reuse of religious structures in Buffalo. The fiscal challenges at Lafayette are daunting. The operational budget is nibbling away at the endowment's principal and membership has dwindled over the years. According to Drew, if the Diocese owned Lafayette it would probably already be closed.

IMG_2792 IMG_2775

click image to enlarge

Drew is asking - "Do we have to collapse as a congregation, fold as a spiritual community for the building to find a new life - or can we become more proactive?" The solution, according to the emerging dialog here at Lafayette Presbyterian becomes a new and progressive mix of the secular and religious.

Here's the podcast (17min, after the link).


Lafayette Presbyterian Church - 1914

After completing his M.Div. at Palmer Theological Seminary he returned to his home town of Pittsburgh in 2004 as an assistant pastor. Drew became the pastor at Lafayette Presbyterian Church in 2007 and lives with his wife and two foster children in the neighborhood. Lafayette Presbyterian Church was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2009.

building indexfixBuffalo flickrcreative classshrinking citiesamericansuburbX
spacing torontoinfrastructuristinhabitat


Lourdes on Main Street - Part IV

I walked around Lourdes Church on Main Street this afternoon (google map).

Lourdes Church - Main Street view

Lourdes is now open on every side. Previous posts and pics clearly show that the windows in the rear and side have been open for years. According to neighbors that I spoke with, damaging winds recently blew the boards off the prominent Main Street windows. Interior pics from September 2008 show a church stripped of any traces of architectural detail and stained glass.

Lourdes Church - rear basement windows

Today's slide show of Lourdes Church.
An entity controlled by local developer and New York State gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino purchased Lourdes church last month for $40,000. The future of this Main Street landmark remains uncertain.

Lourdes Church - side view

Buffalo Rising is carrying this story today - House of the Hole-y.
Related posts:
building indexfixBuffalo flickrcreative classshrinking citiesamericansuburbX
spacing torontoinfrastructuristinhabitat


Creighton Randall - Homesteading the City

Creighton Randall purchased this single-family home at 268 Dodge Street (google map) from the City of Buffalo for $1. On weekends he's been working on renovations with friends and family. I caught up with Creighton late Saturday afternoon.
Creighton Randall - 268 Dodge Street
Despite the blemishes and missing plumbing, the house was in good structural shape when Creighton bought the house. He is devoting additional time to completing renovations this summer and plans to move in this Fall.
268 Dodge Street is directly across from Masten Park, Johnny B. Wiley and the concrete remains of the City's WPA crown jewel, Civic Stadium, also known as the Rock Pile. (See Somewhere in Masten (12/18/08) for additional pics/maps.) Creighton was quick to point out the proximity of City Honors High School as we climbed the concrete steps and walked around Masten Park on Saturday.
286 Dodge - from Masten Park
Creighton told me that he's taking a long-view on his new home and cautions against seeing the City's homestead eligible properties as quick way to 'flip' a property and see a short-term return.
IMG_1731 IMG_1734
click image to enlarge
Creighton took a short break on Saturday and talked with me about his project. Here's a short thirteen minute podcast with Creighton after the jump.
Creighton describes the neighborhood
Creighton moved to Buffalo in 2002 from rural upstate New York near Albany and has recently completed a graduate program in urban planning at UB's School of Architecture and Planning. Creighton incubated and runs Buffalo Car Share, a local non-profit rooted in social entrepreneurship.
If you'd like to know more about Creighton's new home and homesteading and possibly participating in a house-painting workday/party, drop Creighton an email - creightonr@gmail.com - to learn more and get the updates.
Related posts:
building indexfixBuffalo flickrcreative classshrinking citiesamericansuburbX
spacing torontoinfrastructuristinhabitat


Richard Tobe - Fixing the Kensington Part VI

I sat down with Richard Tobe yesterday afternoon at the EM Tea Coffee Cup Cafe in Hamlin Park. We talked about the Kensington.
Rich moved to Buffalo in 1967 from Long Island. After graduating from UB with a degree in political science and completing his legal education at UB in 1974 he became Chief of Staff for Assemblyman William Hoyt. He served as Erie County Commissioner of Environment and Planning and Commissioner of Economic Development and Permit/Inspections for the City of Buffalo. He currently does economic consulting and teaches economic development seminars at UB Law School. Rich is a Richardson Center Corporation and Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper board member.
Our six-minute Kensington podcast is followed by a longer segment where Rich describes a number of battles with NYSDOT and highway construction in the City during the 1970's, including the controversial West Side Arterial.
Related posts:
building indexfixBuffalo flickrcreative classshrinking citiesamericansuburbX
spacing torontoinfrastructuristinhabitat


73 Dodge Street - Homestead in the City

73 Dodge Street is City-owned and available to any qualified prospective home owner for $1. It's located one block from Main Street and around the corner from the Summer Street subway station (google map). Artspace and the Coe Place are right next door. This two-family house appears to be in structurally good condition.
73 Dodge Street - $1
The asphalt shingle siding is no doubt covering - and probably preserving - some clapboard and architectural detail that hasn't seen the light of day since the '60's. Such was the case just around the corner at 1042 Ellicott which was featured in this post, two years ago.
Here's a 73 Dodge Street slide show.
This house, along with 85 other city-owned houses were recently added to the City's inventory of 'homestead eligible' properties. The post and map about that development is available right here.
Interested in making this house your home? John Hannon, Director of Real Estate, is waiting to hear from you. The City's Division of Real Estate can be reached at (716) 851-5261.
building indexfixBuffalo flickrcreative classshrinking citiesamericansuburbX
spacing torontoinfrastructuristinhabitat

Stephanie Barber - Fixing the Kensington Part V

Stephanie Barber is the president of the Hamlin Park Taxpayers & Community Association. I sat down with Stephanie at the Merriweather Library on Jefferson Avenue to talk about the Kensington Expressway.   
Through her advocacy work as president of the Hamlin Park Taxpayers & Community Association, Stephanie persuaded New York State Senator Antoine Thompson to direct funding towards a feasibility study to fix the Kensington.
Related posts:
building indexfixBuffalo flickrcreative classshrinking citiesamericansuburbX
spacing torontoinfrastructuristinhabitat


Land Banks & Urban Farms - Greening Buffalo

A number of fixBuffalo readers sent this in today - WGRZ's Special Report: Abandoned Housing Crisis in Buffalo. It's notable that Mayor Brown and his staff now understand the extent of problem and how intelligent planning and new policy will help.
"There are some neighborhoods that look like the Third World," said Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown
Here's the story. Here's the video:

Related posts:
building indexfixBuffalo flickrcreative classshrinking citiesamericansuburbX
spacing torontoinfrastructuristinhabitat

Cottage in Black Rock - Two on the East Side

UB architecture students purchased this brick cottage at 139 Howell Street (google map) at the City's tax-sale a few years ago. The redesigned minimalist space is clean and the space, totally liveable. 139 Howell - the "Quad House" - is featured in ExinteriorDesign and there's a slide show with interior images in this recent Wallpaper review.
Here's a before pic and a construction series that I snapped during last Fall's open house.
IMG_9898 IMG_9894
click image to enlarge
With UB architecture students showing what's possible with a brick cottage in Black Rock, it's even easier to imagine breathing life into a number of other City-owned brick cottages. 41 Milnor in Downtown Buffalo and 16 Harwood Place, right around the corner from Mayor Byron Brown's residence, come to mind. Both are available for $1.
building indexfixBuffalo flickrcreative classshrinking citiesamericansuburbX
spacing torontoinfrastructuristinhabitat


Vacant/Undeliverable 2010 - Part II

Screen shot 2010-04-23 at 2.24.36 AM
Anthony Armstrong from LISC-Buffalo has been analyzing and mapping abandonment and vacancy issues in Buffalo for the past four years. He's compiled Buffalo Vacancy, a wiki designed to share the unique data sets he's synthesized involving HUD and United States Postal Service undeliverable addresses in Buffalo, NY.
Buffalo - undeliverble percent 12/31/2009
click image to enlarge
I caught up with the Anthony the other day and he told about the most recent series of maps that he's compiled. They provide a strong visual statement about abandonment and vacancy the City is (not)confronting. This map is a snapshot, as of 12/31/09. The other maps involve trend data covering the four year period 2005/2009.
Related posts:
building indexfixBuffalo flickrcreative classshrinking citiesamericansuburbX
spacing torontoinfrastructuristinhabitat

Central Park Plaza - Part II

Central Park Plaza activists and neighbors gathered and rallied this morning urging City officials to take immediate action. If stores aren't closed, the shattered store front windows are the norm and contribute to making Central Park Plaza (bing map) one of the City's most desolate and dangerous landscapes. The Brooklyn based entity that owns the Central Park Plaza seems to be immune from Housing Court's reach.
Beverly Davis - Central Park Plaza activist
I met Dawnette Leftwich, Beverly Davis and Daria Pratcher this morning. They are organizing neighbors and city residents to help transform the severely blighted Central Park Plaza. You can connect via facebook - Help Revitalize Central Park Plaza - and learn more about what's happening and what's needed to help bring about immediate and necessary change in this part of the City.
The Buffalo News covered this morning's story.
Here's a short slide show to further acquaint you to Central Park Plaza.
Related post:
building indexfixBuffalo flickrcreative classshrinking citiesamericansuburbX
spacing torontoinfrastructuristinhabitat


Terry Robinson - Fixing the Kensington - Part IV

Terry Robinson grew up in the Humboldt Parkway neighborhood. He graduated from Calasanctius High School in 1972 and studied political economy at Princeton and Harvard. He lives with his wife on Humboldt Parkway. Terry's many activities in the community include being a trustee of Preservation Buffalo Niagara.


I sat down with Terry in the backyard of his Humboldt Avenue home that's directly across the street from the Kensington. The podcast's first seven minutes of q&a are followed by Terry's favorite childhood reflection about growing up on Humboldt Parkway.
Related posts:
building indexfixBuffalo flickrcreative classshrinking citiesamericansuburbX
spacing torontoinfrastructuristinhabitat


The Boulevard Option - Fixing the Kensington - Part III

Demone Smith, Masten District Councilmember, introduced a resolution (.pdf) yesterday urging NYSDOT to study a third option - the Boulevard Option - as New York State prepares a $2 million feasibility study to fix the Kensington. Currently two options are on the table, each involving placing a "cap" over the Kensington over a one-mile stretch between East Delavan and Best streets. These two options would cost between $350-$500 million. The Boulevard Option, which would fill the entire highway and restore Humboldt Parkway as a multiway boulevard, would likely cost much less.
Demone Smith's resolution calls on NYSDOT to put all feasible options on the table in its "Study to Cover Portions of Rt. 33," including the Boulevard Option. WKBW is running with the story.
This afternoon I caught up with Demone and discussed the importance of his resolution and the new Boulevard Option. Here's the podcast.
Related posts:
building indexfixBuffalo flickrcreative classshrinking citiesamericansuburbX
spacing torontoinfrastructuristinhabitat