2/03/2012

The Brecker Building at 630 High - Loft Living or Landfill?

The Brecker Building is a four-story, steel-reinforced concrete framed building constructed at 630 High Street in 1911 to house the J. M. Brecker's Department Store (google map).  It is a very early example of steel-reinforced concrete construction, as early as it gets, and is an admirable specimen of progressive architecture in a seemingly unlikely location: the five-points of Genesee, Herman, and High streets.

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The department store thrived through the 1910s and appears to have downsized in 1925 to a smaller location at 905 Genesee Street. In 1926, just in time for its September opening, the building was transformed into a vocational school for girls ages 14-17, who would attend the school one day a week to learn the "domestic arts" and various womanly trades, such as, among other things, how to work in a department store. The fourth floor of the building was set up as a model apartment for teaching the girls to learn how to be ideal housewives. The school moved to other quarters around 1937 and the building became briefly used as a large indoor market, Mammouth Market Centers, where a restaurant, meat markets, grocers, bakers, etc., set up stalls and sold their goods, but it was not a lasting venture: the building was listed as vacant, briefly, in 1940. 

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The former school was then taken over by the Curtiss Wright Aeroplane Division to house the Curtiss Wright Corporate Training School, a use undoubtedly linked to the war effort and one that may have lasted up to 1945. Chic Maid Hat Mfg. Co. had a good run in the building from 1946 to the early 1960s. From that point forward to the late 1990s, the building housed mostly warehouse functions. The Brecker Building was in sound condition as late as 2005, around which time the City took title for the building after a period of ownership by a notorious slumlord whose case was detailed in the Buffalo News. Around 2006, the City constructed a very nice curb extension in front of the building, a public investment that validates the inherent value of its location.

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The building is a block from an Olmsted park, a block from an expressway exit, a mile from downtown, and is situated on arguably the next frontier of private reinvestment in the Near East Side. The building is adaptable, strongly built, is adjacent to vacant land available for surface parking to serve potential tenants, and is along one of Buffalo's most frequent bus lines, the #24, which links to the Buffalo-Niagara International Airport. Nearby, the former Weber's Furniture at 900 Genesee Street has recently undergone a complete restoration, and the former St. Mary of Sorrows R. C. Church, one block to the east, enjoys renewed vitality as the King Urban Life Center. Things are happening at Genesee-High, and future prospects seem bright. An argument for retaining the Brecker Building for future reuse, given current development trajectories, and existing site conditions, is very strong.

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Currently, the Brecker Building is City-owned.  It was recently targeted for a City sponsored demolition.  The building's copper trim (see 2005 image)  has been stolen and scrapped.   The views here are simply stunning. 
Additional images are available in the 630 High Street flickr archive
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7 comments:

Rod McCallum said...

The King Center Charter School operates out of the King Urban Life Center facilities and is half way through an expansion from 100 students to over 400 students. This is bringing significant development activity in the blocks surrounding this building.

Resurrect Buffalo said...

Though, not an original statement; this building should be treated as-like the Genesee Gateway with a total gutting of the building which seems to be happening on its own and vandalism and repairing the roof which, I know, arguably, would cost $10,000-$15,000 for an EPDM roof but would prevent concrete being exposed to freezing and thawing which results in compromised rebar (won’t bore you with my construction technical jargon).
Definitely cheaper than a total demolition and it is a nice earl 20th century commercial building so, City of Buffalo, step-up to the plate and divest yourselves from the total demolition mentality.

milatello said...

The City has owned it for 5 years and during that time it has been stripped, deteriorated more and kept that neighborhood devalued. There is not even a "FOR SALE" sign on it.

The system is broken down and incompetent. This is what HUD and the FBI should look at - the systemic massive mis-handling of properties and assets by the public bureaucracy.

Here is proof that the City is inept at owning much less managing buildings.

Anonymous said...

David, lets push to get this properly mothballed.. it deserves it!!

Anonymous said...

the City obviously doesn't know what it's doing. With it's eyeballs on the Buffalo-Niagara Medical Campus, but not knowing exactly what that means- they are fools. The recent garbage from the NFTA proposing eliminating EVERY single bus line that services the BNMC shows us how suspectible the City is to foolishness. This building, just down High St. from the Campus could house medical students or other Kaleida employees. (why oh why was 23 High St. torn down - why couldn't Kaleida have kept that as an apartment complex for its employees. - snort - as a Kaleida employee I already know the answer).

BuffaLOVE! said...

Let's save it, David!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Milatello - there's some sort of sleazy racket going on in the city govt. - the city takes over a building, does nothng to mothball it, and then lo and behold anything of value is stripped. I agree that it's time to call in the FBI.