Month: October 2012
Finding Beauty, Hope and Opportunity in Buffalo’s Urban Decay
The slideshow below shows off what two hours of urban exploration around Buffalo will get you. Its fun to explore,wander and dive into these structures and places and to bring these places into the public eye once in a while.
We all have different definitions of beauty. However, regardless, we are fortunate to have so many structures still standing, still waiting for their next purpose in their long lives. We are lucky to have had the best of the best in Buffalo at the turn of the century, a time that still dominates our lives through our building stock, Buffalo heritage and values. We had the BEST architects, construction workers, organizations and power people fighting to grow Buffalo to be the greatest city on earth.
Today, we have the relics of the past and the promise of a better future through recent growth and expansion. We have weathered the storm of the white flight and we are now seeing the return of families and businesses come into our city core.
As we grow, we must continue to preserve what made Buffalo – Buffalo. We can do that through preservation, rehabilitation, and through recreation. We can also build new alongside of our historic giants, incorporating the future into the past. Its not rocket science, many cities – New York, Chicago and Toronto are doing it. We can too.
Saving beautiful buildings does not define preservation. Preservation goes beyond the beauty and aims to preserve history and importance to a person, place or thing. The chicken wing is not beautiful (although very tasty!) yet if the anchor bar closed, I am sure people would want to see it stay opened and take action to see it saved. Same goes for the Buffalo Bills. Right now many people think we are at risk of loosing them. The increased demand and attention from citizens and politicians for a better stadium is actually in an effort to preserve the Bills because the investment will hopefully keep the Buffalo Bills in Buffalo. Think about this – You cannot walk down the street without seeing Bills memorabilia. The team, regardless of success in the season is important to us and to Buffalo as a whole. So guess what? When the time comes, we will fight to preserve the Buffalo Bills.
My friends, the same attitude should be given for our churches, buildings and historic artifacts. Who cares if Trico isn’t as beautiful as City Hall? It still demands the same respect. In fact, day light factories are dwindling these days, making such a handsome building even more valuable. And what about the grain elevators? You don’t think there are a bunch of hipsters that want to party, watch shows, hang out or work in a grain elevator? There are. And taking a leap will attract more people to our City. Baltimore turned one grain elevator into condos which has been a super successful project. We can create the demand. Rick Smith, owner of Silo City has shown Buffalo that people do have interest in the grain elevators. Rick Smith is creating the buzz, capturing the audience and helping people across WNY find the beauty in the urban decay through events, tours and investment.
These photos represent opportunity, hope and a beauty that very few cities have. Our urban decay and density of the past will be our future. We need to build on what we have instead of destroying it. We are lucky to have these gentle giants waiting patiently for new life. We are fortunate to have a growing number of citizens finding interest in our urban environment. Preservation mixed with development can and will happen, we just have to continue to demand the best, just like our past Buffalonians did 100 years ago.
The Erie Freight House
I want to take a few minutes to explain my thoughts on this issue. You may not agree but please, hear me out. For those who have not read about the Erie Freight House issue, click here.
Buffalo was born, raised and almost died because of the Erie Canal. The Erie Canal made Buffalo the Queen City. The wealth, the growth and decline of Buffalo and the industrial fabric that dots the skyline of our city was provided by our historic industrial past and connection with the Erie Canal. The past is still connected and represented across our city in our buildings, parks and even our street names.
Currently, our entire waterfront is dedicated towards representing and recreating our historic waterfront. Canalside and the introduction of the historic Commercial Slip was rebuilt at the expense of millions of dollars to recreate the historic location of the Erie Canal… and guess what? It is a HUGE hit and a major reason why we have seen so much success along our waterfront. Have you been to the Liberty Hound Restaurant? That too is a recreation of a historic Canal era building.
Because of this, I feel that we can give the last remaining original freight house the respect and due diligence it deserves. If we don’t consider all options and let this one rot or die, one day soon we will wish we had a large, historic freight house for weddings, events and public space along our historic buffalo river. This building is much more than a tin shack. Beneath the crappy siding is giant tree trunks for joists, wooden clapboard and a space that even in its existing state is breath taking. There is no doubt that it needs work but considering all the money spent to recreate other Erie Canal era type buildings and canals – we should consider all options before allowing the demolition of the only original freight house left.
Now consider this; Preservation advocates don’t have the resources to preserve everything so if Preservation Buffalo Niagara sticks their neck out there pleading for reuse, the City Council makes it a local landmark (we couldn’t even get that for Trico!) and an experienced architect says it can be reused, re purposed and saved – I believe it. I am thankful for PBN and everyone else who has pushed hard to make this conversation happen.
Lastly, I am not here to fight or argue but regardless of what your opinion is or what happens – this conversation really needs to be about the legal PROCESS. We, as citizens of Buffalo, cannot allow the legal process be forgiven and forgotten for a developer. If that’s the case, all developers would get away with whatever they want. Put it in perspective – you wouldn’t want your neighbor to get away with a violation when you followed the rules, right? It’s not fair to you or to the public.
The decision is expected to be made soon. I for one, would love to see parties, weddings and public events in a large, open historic warehouse. Places like these don’t exist anymore. Places like this will never be built like this again. Let’s think BIGGER than one condo proposal that isn’t financed yet. The proposed condos can be built anywhere in this area considering there is sprawling vacant land that surrounds this historic local landmark. We need to create a vibrant, mixed use area that drives our city forward while embracing our incredible, unforgettable history.
Here is text from buffaloah.com on the Freight House. There is a lot of information here on why this building important.
On January 10th, 2012 the Buffalo Common Council approved the nomination of the Erie Freight House as a designated city landmark. Preservation Buffalo Niagara (PBN) would like to reinforce this informed decision that was made by the means of direct public participation. The Local Landmark status provides the highest level of protection for historically significant assets in our community, and ensures meaningful public participation in the future of said resources.
Common Councilman David Franczyk, whose district includes the Erie Freight House, also highlighted the historic importance as well as the potential for reuse during that same January 10th Common Council meeting, saying “The historically significant 1868 freight house on the Buffalo River is worthy of restoration as a catalyst for the continued revitalization of Buffalo’s waterfront, terminus of the Erie Canal and cradle of the city’s industrial origins. It is required of the owner of this currently neglected structure to adhere to all city building codes and laws in order to enhance the building’s future re-use.”
On October 1st, 2012 Preservation Buffalo Niagara received a letter from a Registered Architect and Professional Engineer outlining his own assessment of the Erie Freight House’s current structural condition. The professional, Kevin V. Connors, PE, AIA, LEED AP, the Principal of eco_logic STUDIO, has extensive experience with historic structures having worked on the Granite Works at Main and Virginia, the White Brothers Livery on Jersey Street as well as numerous 19th century residential homes.
Mr. Connors’ letter states that “While I recognize the risk and security issues of the current facility’s condition, it is my professional opinion that the structure can be stabilized and protected by performing selective demolition and salvage operations; structural shoring and bracing of the remaining structure; enclosure of exposed portions of walls and roof; and securing the waterside exposure.” Mr. Connors’ assessment of the condition of the structure is based off of his participation in a September 12th, 2012 walk-through of the local landmark in addition to reviewing the ‘Preliminary Structural Observation’ report by Tredo Engineers.
Preservation Buffalo Niagara encourages the community to join us in asking that this important piece of our history be given the opportunity for appropriate reuse.
Event Alert! Design Circuit – The Situation is Now: An Architectural Panel Discussion on 10/18/12
A one night panel discussion set to explore the relevance and importance of Ohio Street, Canalside, and Outer Harbor Development in the context of the current state of Buffalo’s evolution, from the point of view of a city planner, journalist, developer, architect, artist, and the everyday user. There is boundless potential for Ohio Street, and our goal is to facilitate discussion, share ideas, and promote activity that enables Buffalo growth.
Robert Shibley, UB School of Architecture – Moderator
Prof. Henry Taylor, UB Center for Urban Studies; www.centerforurbanstudies.com
Laura Kelly – Old 1st Ward Community Association; http://old1stward.com
Sam Hoyt, ECHDC; www.eriecanalharbor.com
Mark Goldman, Community Leader; http://buffaloah.com/h/goldman/goldman.html
Mike Puma, Buffalo Rising, Journalist; www.preservationstudios.com
Chris Hawley, City of Buffalo;http://www.ci.buffalo.ny.us/Home/City_Departments/Office_of_Strategic_Planning
William Haskas, HD-Systems, Designer; www.hd-sys.net
First Ward Community Center
62 Republic Street
Buffalo, NY 14204
Date and Time:
Thursday, October 18, 2012
Free and Open to the Public
WNY Solar & Green Building Tour – Saturday, October 13th!
This has been my baby for 2 years and I encourage everyone who likes buildings, sustainability and saving money to go and see at least ONE building/home. DO IT.
- Have you ever had an interest in solar, geothermal or other neat renewable technologies?
- Have you heard about houses being made from straw bale?
- What about seeing how historic buildings can become more energy efficient?
Exploring Buffalo 10/6/2012
Photo Update: Me At Five Points Bakery
Photo Of The Day: WORK
This has been my work environment for the past hour.
I’m happiest and most productive when I am not in a lifeless office space in the burbs.. Of course!
Who doesn’t like seeing an being around people, sipping coffee and listening to music while whipping up proposals??!!
Hope everyone of my readers is having a great day. Lots of new initiatives and projects are about to come online.. Stay tuned!