Suburbs in the City...

Last week I pedaled to the end of my street and visited the site where Mayor Brown announced the latest housing development for the country's second poorest city. As reported by BuffaloRising - Real Estate Reincarnation - the cost of four new 'suburban style' houses with 'west coast eclectic' design will be built at the very end of Woodlawn Avenue at Kehr Street at a staggering cost of 4-5 million dollars.

Here's the story that appeared in Wednesday's Buffalo News.
When the demolitions are finished, work will begin on four “West Coast suburban-style” homes that are being built by the development arm of True Bethel Baptist Church. The project represents the type of coordinated development that is being linked to demolition blitzes in many other parts of the city, Brown said.
Here's the map.

Our newest 'suburbs in the city' location is circled in blue. Aside from a politically connected pastor's church and related business - which I've supported and praised here, from a September 2006 Wall Street Journal article - there are no cultural or community assets in this neighborhood. In fact the exact opposite is true. Directly across the street from the church is a former lead smelting site (green location) and one block further away is the location of a soon to be announced EPA superfund and toxic site - the former Houdaille Industries location on Northland which just happens to be owned by the City of Buffalo.
The church and Subway shop are located here, directly across the street from the area outlined above in green.
Certainly a clustered approach to demolitions here is a good idea. This grouping has been beyond derelict for years. Yet the insanity of building new houses in this location isn't being questioned. At least one fixBuffalo reader has shared that part of the financing package will most probably include various loan guarantees backed by the City of Buffalo.
The eight houses that will be demolished are pictured here in this following photo set.
IMG_5642 IMG_5641 IMG_5640 IMG_5639
IMG_5638 IMG_5637 IMG_5635 IMG_5634
click image to enlarge
While the true costs of single home construction at Sycamore Village are running in excess of 200K - not including the cost of litigation and site remediation - the sale prices are substantially less, in the range of 120-130K. I'll start digging around and looking into this project. Bottom line here is that we have to be strategic. The scatter shot approach to building a city that's sustainable simply will not work. It hasn't in the past. Is there any reason to believe that it will here with this project?

I'll be following this development and hope to have a site plan and architectural renderings soon. Stay tuned. This should be interesting.
ArtspaceBAVPAWoodlawn Row HousesfixBuffalo flickr
the creativity exchangeshrinking cities


Anonymous said...

Although I'm not an expert, indeed $4-5M seems out of line for 4 new houses and some demos. It also seemed a bit strange to me that there were no renderings or site plans shown when this project was announced. I wonder if, with the recent legislation changing its authority, the control board will be able to take a close look at the feasibility.

Another thing that occurs to me - Esmonde occasionally writes columns with the theme "what were these people smoking when they made this decision?!" Could be interesting to show him this information, and show him the site - maybe he'd take an interest in writing about this project.

BTW, what's the story with that cool arched tunnel pictured in the background - there don't seem to be any roads leading to or from it --? Might make an interesting urbex.

fixBuffalo said...

As I wasn't invited to the demolition party, I'm checking all sorts of sources about future plans/documents/models here.

Got the Donn Esmonde...thanks.


Anonymous said...

Not to sound girly, but those 8 houses would be so cute if restored. That goes for so many of the houses that are getting demolished now. Sure, some are beyond repair but a lot could be fixed up for the same price as demo. It wouldn't take $200,000 a piece to restore, the city could easily "flip" some of these old houses and resell them at cost or even for a tiny profit. I would much rather see that purple or blue house restored then see a prefab suburban pile of generic crap in its place. These old homes hold value if redone where as these new "suburb" homes in the city lose value quickly and will not be standing in 90 or 100 years.

Anonymous said...


I have lived on the east side all my life and it amazes how so many are now concerned about "saving" dilapidated houses that have been vacant for a very long time. It's easy to talk about how cute an old vacant house is if you don't have to live next to one.

Over the years, Rev. Pridgen and True Bethel Baptist, St. John Baptist Church, Friendship Baptist Church, Bethel AME Zion Church and other churches have worked to secure funding for low to moderate income housing, child care centers and health facilities in addition to their religious activities. These religious institutions and community organizations have worked for many years and through several administrations to improve life on this side of town.

Over fifteen years ago, our house was built on a lot where two houses once stood. On the blocks near us, whole new neighborhoods were built in neglected areas where old vacant houses and empty lots stood. There are other neighborhoods on the east side where the City is collecting revenues on former derelict properties and empty lots.

There is still much to be done. But, unless someone is going to come up with a lot of money to renovate long vacant houses, those old houses should be torn down as soon as possible so that the revitalization of the east side can continue.