94 Northampton - New lease on life

Late this afternoon Commissioner Jim Comerford from the City of Buffalo Department of Permits & Inspections informed me that 94 Northampton has been removed from the City's demolition list. John Hannon, the City's Director of Real Estate, informed me he's requested the Common Council add 94 Northampton to the list of City-owned property that is "homestead eligible." This means that 94 Northampton will be available - to a qualified buyer - for $1.

94 Northampton Avenue - Buffalo, NY

94 Northampton Street - c. 1906

Ellicott District Councilman Curtis Haynes will be working along side Tim Tielman and the Campaign for Greater Buffalo, neighbors and other interested individuals and groups to find a buyer for this historic and architecturally significant Midtown Buffalo residence.

Good news.

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Anonymous said...

If a capable buyer is found that has the time and money to do this extensive rehab would be very good news.
As I dont think any organization has put more time or effort into Northampton st than Buffalo ReUse..from numerous cleanups,many community gardens,tree plantings to diy workshops open to everyone..we are committed to the area.Some negative remarks have been made about Buffalo ReUse's salvaging on the 1st floor of this property AFTER being notified by the contractor that the property was being demoed and seeing it vacant and exposed to the elements for years..Let it be known Buffalo ReUse will welcome a new homeowner to 94 Northampton with use of our tools in our tool lending library, And help with supplies as Michael offered a $250 gift certificate to our store.
To the several who displayed such negativity..Im sure if a homeowner is found they could use more help..perhaps you could email your contact info to David so he could pass it along to any potential new homeowner? Michele J

Korrupt said...

This is great news. However, does this mean that items/materials BR salvaged will be returned? Does BR keep a record of what was taken and from where? Just askin'.

Anonymous said...

After speaking to David and him telling me he showed the house to a possible potential interested buyer several weeks ago Im sure he can attest to the fact that after almost 10 yrs(neighbors account)and being open to the elements via roof issues for atleast several yrs there werent any gold or diamonds as some assume left in the property..

In fact the 2nd floor wasnt salvaged at all due to safety concerns..David mentioned to me a kitchen sink in the lower and from what I understand possibly a few doors..Im sure if we dont still have the above we can replace them for the new owner as well as the offer of a $250 gift certificate,tool lending and possibly even some seedlings for a garden! Michele J

Anonymous said...


After several months of planning take a look at all of the good happenings via Buffalo ReUse to Northampton st..Michele J

Korrupt said...

Interesting. Probably needs to be gutted.

Anonymous said...

Although Im not a contractor I would bet you are correct on it needing to be gutted.
As a founding board member of Buffalo ReUse I can tell you that we are very committed to the neighborhood as anyone can see if they take a drive/walk down Northampton and the surrounding streets.

Michele J

olcott_beach said...


I bet you have interior photographs of this building - perhaps a visual of the interior damage would be a good place to start for a potential rehab customer!

Anonymous said...

While I still would like to see this building rehabbed at what point does the safety of others in neighborhood takes precedent.
For 10 yrs we have been living with this eye sore; and it being flipped back and forth between the city of Buffalo and homeowners who don't have the capability financially to complete such a project. When does it stop!

Bruce Beyer said...

Mary and I drove to "94" on Earth Day to see for ourselves what condition this house is in. Obviously, we did not go inside but from the street things look bad.

I was wondering when a neighbor would chime in (as anonymous above) and mention what living near this house ie:"eyesore" meant. This house represents a fire hazard and a threat to the safety of Buffalo firefighters let alone the houses in close proximity.

David, you and I have been friends a long time. I told you on the phone I thought your use of the word "ransacking" by Buffalo ReUse was off base and merited an apology. Regardless you have, once again, raised an interesting issue here.

It strikes me that whether Michael Gainer is correct or I am regarding the cost of rehabbing this house -- the price is enormous. From an environmental perspective I wonder if rehabbing it is justifiable? Given the enormity of the task, will the owner ever recoup their costs? I seriously doubt it!

I understand the loss of these old homes is tragic but the racism which lead to their demise is more tragic still. The East Side of Buffalo is littered with the consequences of racist economic and political decisions. "White flight" in the sixties was driven by fear initiated by unethical real estate agents and civil unrest. Houses sold well below market value and new owners were unable to keep up with costly maintenance issues. (Imagine what a paint job every ten years on "94" would cost?) As you well know, maintenance on wood frame houses is an ongoing never ending process.

For the cost of rehabbing this house, two or three small energy efficient homes could be built. With imagination and knowledge, far more rational building decisions could be formulated than our present "Vinyl Victorian" solution. In my opinion, combining used and new building materials would be a far more intelligent expenditure of money than dumping it into "94".

Trying to attract "white painters" into a community that is in need of jobs and affordable housing is not the way. Buffalo ReUse has been addressing the issues of jobs and the environment since it's founding. I have yet to see you address the issue of costs when discussing East Side reclamation efforts.

You have written well about small houses. These sustainable projects are for more worthy of exploring than ostentatious rehab projects. Wood frame houses were never expected to survive for hundreds of years. The ones that do are either labors of love, government projects, or community based efforts due to their historic value. Look at the cost of rehabbing the Jesse Nash house, a million plus dollars (right around the corner from Milnor St. I might add.)

Finally, when we left our inspection of "94" we came upon Buffalo ReUse and National Grid volunteers busting the asses building a water garden at the corner of Northampton and Michigan. Their one day effort has transformed a corner lot in a neighborhood trying to achieve peace.

I most respectfully submit this for your consideration.

fixBuffalo said...


Interesting point about costs.

94 Northampton is a three family house. If Michael's estimate - $250K - is in the ballpark that represents less than half the cost of a number of well-liked projects in the neighborhood - Artspace and Packard.

The larger discussion about 'opportunity costs' which you're raising is a good one. I wouldn't be so much an advocate for this place if it weren't for the larger context. Here on this block and around the corner on Ellicott there have been a number of substantial renovations in recent years - similar size.

Two years ago another City-owned house at 115 Northampton - post/pics - was demolished. It was in structurally good condition and a new roof had been added a few years earlier. Aside from being vacant, it posed no public safety issues. It's now the site of that garden you mention.

Stay tuned...

fixBuffalo said...

Anon/Neighbor - I understand. Please contact me. Thanks.


Bruce Beyer said...


Good answer and I appreciate you taking the time to respond!

When I look at the old photograph of "94" I am transported back into the early twentieth century when coal was cheap and people didn't care about the environment. Houses all over Buffalo were heated with large "octopus" coal fired furnaces. Coal was dropped in through a chute and hand loaded into these monsters. Spent fuel was put out with the garbage or strewn on the streets. The "inexpensive" cost of the coal allowed for huge uninsulated wood frame house such as "94". This house started out as a single family and to think of a renovation into a three family definitely puts the cost of rehab over $250,000.

As you know, there is an abandoned vacant house behind "94" as well as a number of vacant properties with a hundred yards of this one. Each was worthy of restoration at some point in its existence but sadly those days have passed.

If we are simply in the "business" of saving properties for the sake of historic preservation, costs don't matter. Working class and poor people will be displaced by well meaning preservationists. If one single penny of government money is used to subsidize the resurrection of "94" I will be disappointed in the same way I am upset by Rocco "Motel Six" Termini's gift of Buffalo Alternative HS.

There is only so much money in the pot. Buffalo's elected officials have chosen to squander millions of dollars in Block Grant funds. I see faith based housing programs a continuation of this wasteful process. Farm City's desire to rehab a long vacant house was worthless in the face of an arsonists torch and no money.

I've spent the last twenty five years of my life trying to rehab and maintain a two story 1860's brick structure on Buffalo's East side. In hindsight I question the viability of this project. I think I would have been better off following the example of small home builders Schroeder and Costa. Of course, Buffalo would have one less historic brick building.

In sincere friendship and an understanding that we are on the same side. Bruce

Unknown said...

I am student of Urban Planning and Geography at Ohio State University. I recently traveled to Buffalo as an architectural tourist and visited this site. I feel this house is simply irreplaceable. Though it is currently in poor condition, it is certain that any replacement structure would not have the same architectural value. This home was carefully designed for this corner and works with the home on the opposite corner to create a gateway into Holland Place. Its footprint also extends to the back the lot, which provides privacy to the backyards of adjacent homes on Northhampton. This is simply THE building to save on the street. It is crucial to weaving this neighborhood together.

On a related note, I feel that Buffalo Reuse should review their actions here. Before dismantling any future homes, they should always question whether such an action is merited. The city of Buffalo frequently moves to demolish structures that ought not be demolished; St. Mary's on the Hill, for instance. Often, the city does not even alert the Preservation Board before issuing a demo notice. For these reasons and others, Buffalo Reuse needs to alert community stakeholders before proceeding to dismantle future homes.

Anonymous said...

$1 might be the price a young ambitious and handy person or persons might be looking for. Too bad it took so long to get to that price.

I have been in this house several times over the past 3 years (unless you work for the gov't, in which case I deny it all) and am a green construction designer, project mgr and consultant. The standard route of full gut renovation done by contractors is too steep for this project to happen. One must think outside the box... In the current environment of massive unemployment and UNDER-employment there are people who have the time and ambition to take on such a project. They just don't know this opportunity exists.

If I was a young unemcumbered lad just out of college, I would: repair the leaky roof not replace it (yet), gut the water damaged rooms, shore up the structural elements and seal off the too-expensive-to-fix-right-now rooms in a completely gutted state. I figure about $40,000 of materials could make a large portion of this house inhabitable (large enough for 2 people easily). If you are into minimalist living, less money than that would be needed. All labor done by owner (and significant other) plus help from generous friends (this phase would be over 1000 hours). All future work could be picked away at over the course of years. As the market in that neighborhood improves so will the confidence it is worth the effort to complete the project.

With houses like this we should not be looking for a museum house in the first 5-10 years, just occupants that will keep it from getting worse and pay taxes. No immediate need to renovate the whole thing. Why do we have to get hung up on standard "rehab costs" on every house?

That is why I think this house is savable, just not by a large percentage of the population.

Jeff Brennan

Unknown said...

Jeff Brennan has a good plan, with the exception of property value. Every dollar put into such houses will be poured down the drain, because the house will remain as worthless as the surrounding neighborhood. Spending $40K to make a barely livable house which won't sell for any price is just crazy.

The abandonment of Buffalo is far from over; the bad elements of the East Side are moving to the West Side, destroying yet another area. A neighborhood is only as good as its inhabitants, and the scum are still driving away decent people all over the City.

Anonymous said...


I have no doubt that plenty of the houses in the vicinity are worth at least $40K. There has been impressive investment in recent years in that area. Small houses around the corner on Coe Place have had $50-100k+ invested. Several houses on Northampton look great and are huge and must be worth $40k+. This goes to my point in the previous post about this house:

"... it is a good debate because it points out the case by case nature that preservation can be. Some structures have more going for them than others. This one is savable due to its location and features. The same house in better condition but a less desirable location might be a tougher save than this."

The point is that David has put so much effort into this house and not a hundred others due to its location and potential. He certainly hasn't been so concerned with thousands of other structures.

Roy said...

Hey All,

I am a homeowner two blocks from “94”, have known David fixbuff as an ally and friend for years, and am a supporter, customer and donor to ReUse. Olaf, the ReCat first showed up in my compost box. I am also fully invested in this neighborhood. I have reboarded several houses to preserve then, sometimes repeatedly.

It pains me to read fixbuffalo’s harsh words about ReUse, just as it pains me to see that another gem of a house may fall. I take Michael Gainer at his word over anonymous “neighbors”. I also suggest that ReUse make sure all ducks are demonstrably in a row before starting on demos, and consider posting documents on this particular one.

David and I had a conversation this past Sunday about “94”. He has been a potent advocate for this neighborhood for years. His passion is commendable, but in the case of 94 Northampton it is misplaced. He and I went through that building at least 5 years ago and I thought it was a lost cause then: multiple roof valley perforations, water service wide open in the basement for years, extensive vandalism, etc. Strong opinions about this and other houses do not excuse slamming ReUse in an accusatory way.

I agree with Bruce that the $250K rehab estimate is low. Comparing that price (for a 3 unit woodframe) with recent large multi-unit developments like Artspace and Packard doesn’t tell us much.

Get this spat over with. I swear I will smack both of you (fixbuffalo and mgainer) in the kisser if there isn’t a strong, mutual good-faith effort to work it out. We need to pick our battles. Having said that, I will commit to spending an afternoon with fixbuffalo securing and spiffing up “94”. If it’s off the demo list we can’t just leave it there, can we?

Thanks, Roy

fixBuffalo said...


I appreciate your support. I know this is a long-shot, yet an essential part of the neighborhood.

Will let you know about the details of the work-day when we're ready to announce that. Soon...

Unknown said...

I am late to this discussion as well, but I did want to say that, David, in speaking to you I have to admire, and have a new appreciation, for your passion for this neighborhood. For some, this is a tough place to love, for others we see endless opportunity and the possibility to enjoy and participate in small (and sometimes larger) victories. As you know, I've moved back to Buffalo part time and reside now on the far West Side, a neighborhood that's also seen it's share of misfortune. While it's easy to dismiss fringe neighborhoods in Buffalo and other rust belt cities, I have grown to love and appreciate the nuances of these places. Life happens here - it happens in gardens, it happens in conversations on porches and in kitchens, and it happens in the willpower and resolve of people who won't take no for an answer. The texture of that life is what makes city living so experiential - and the broad strokes often painted while describing the these places as only areas of blight and hopelessness misses the opportunity to see and feel something deeper. I love waking up to the possibility of small victories in my neighborhood and feel personally devastated when there is loss. When I left Buffalo in the 80s there were very few advocates for a place perceived as a dying city. To be able to come back to people who have put their necks out - you, ReUse, PUSH, makes me inspired to stay and be part of the process. Aside from the ongoing discussion of '94' the larger point is that Buffalo must do what it can to retain it's city structure. Detroit is losing that battle. And the notion that a city should take on the character of a generic suburb is missing the point. The questions of how those ideas take shape are what makes these forums so important. While the texture has been infinitely sanded out of so many places, to be able to wake up and feel infinite possibility is a gift. Being able to inspire people to see something more is a gift. So thank you and everyone else in this place for the work you do. It made coming home something more than I ever expected.

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