Today the Buffalo’s Young Preservationists (BYP), the Bailey Business Association and the University Heights Tool Lending Library teamed up to do a clean up of the historic Uptown Theatre at 3163 Bailey Ave.
We had people of all ages come to help! Puma, Derek, Mark and I focused on scrapping the marquee so it could be painted. Darren, Aaron, Laluce and others worked on cleaning out the basement. Also, a lot of children and neighbors worked on landscaping the exterior planters!
The future of the Uptown Theater is a hopeful one. It is in great hands and the plan is to use it for flexible event spaces such as weddings, presentations and neighborhood meetings.
Snapped this at Five Points Bakery. Kevin, the owner of Five Points told me that he found this mug in his vacant building on Brayton St. which will one day soon be the new home for Five Points Bakery. What a great find!
I don’t usually suggest things like this but Casey Milbrand’s City Heartart piece is going to be an important piece at this weekends event – City of Night. Casey wants to create an interactive giant heart out of bicycle wheels. Giant art installations like this remind me of festivals and big cities… and Buffalo deserves to have one. On top of that, who doesn’t like giant hearts!??!!!??
Jason snapped this of me when we were in Albuquerque, NM in June 2013.
As many of you know, I like old things so this photo is a fun one to post. New Mexico is such a beautiful place – very red, brown and turquoise… all my favorite flavors of color. I picked up the best copper bracelet and beaded moccasins in Albuquerque – I just love the southwestern style. I would recommend checking it out sometime!
I have been reading a lot on the vacant land crisis in Philly and I feel that Buffalo could and should learn a few things about how other cities address vacancy issues . This blog post is concentrated on a few policy ideas Philly has implemented that we can learn from or use as inspiration. (Note: Thank you to Jesse Kerns at Grid Mag who sent me a lot of Philly based information randomly because he knew I would love it!)
Vacant Lots in Philadelphia: Using Philly to Generate Ideas and Inspiration For Buffalo.
A little bit about Philadelphia. Philadelphia has approx. 40,000 vacant lots and about 75% of them are concentrated in one area – the north & south west of Philly. The City spends $20 million dollars on maintenance fees and have 2 million in uncollected property taxes. Sounds a little like Buffalo, huh? (A smaller version, of course!)
While some may not think vacant land is important in preservation – it really is. Weedy, garbage filled vacant lots are a sign of neglect which can easily devalue an area. This leads towards more demolitions, increases in vacant lots and a decline in neighborhood stability. Instead of being a weedy lot, these spaces can be reused and transformed into powerful community spaces which helps to increase investment in existing structures, excite the neighborhood and stop demolitions.
Like Buffalo, Philadelphia has a high number of vacant lots and a system that struggles to keep up, making purchasing and reusing vacant lots very difficult. According to the Grid article above, In 2012, Philly passed the land bank bill as well as instituted a “front door” policy which gives vacant lots for $1.00 to adjacent home owners. Buffalo has both of these programs however, in my experience, the “front door” policy is not officially named or broadly marketed… and the land bank passed in 2011 doesn’t appear to be off the ground yet.
To bring it down to a personal experience, Jason and I have had an application into the City to purchase a lot next door to our house since November of 2012. We are told it is approved and going through the approval process. I am not even sure if the lot will be sold to us for $1.00 or $3,000 dollars… The process is a clunky one – acquisition of a city owned parcel requires several stops in city committees and many signatures to get the approval. Over the past year or so, the process has become a bit more cleaner and easier. It is important to remember that this is a much needed process however, I am sure it could be refined to save time, money and energy.
Lastly, here is a link to an article showing the latest progress in Philly – an app that identifies vacant lots and a new coalition that has been formed to turn the vacant lots into green space. It is pretty neat! BYP is working on something sorta similar – www.preservationready.org is a website that identifies buildings at risk with a goal for people interested in the building to find information on it… however an app would be a great next step in identifying buildings, vacant lots.. etc. If we want these buildings and lots to be purchased and reinvested in – we have to find a way to make it easier to do so.
Preservation 2.0: Neighborhoods, Heart Bombs & Engaging Young People
Bio: Bernice “Buffalove” Radle loves Buffalo, buildings and cities. Her endless enthusiasm, dedication and passion is aimed at historic preservation, neighborhood development and making historic buildings more energy efficient in Buffalo, NY. Bernice is a project manager at Buffalo Energy, co owns Buffalove Development and is very active in many organizations including Buffalo’s Young Preservationists, Women Elect & the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association.
What Preservation 2.0 means to me: (warning: unedited)
Preservation 2.0 means that the conversation and movement surrounding historic preservation is evolving into a what I think of as a “social” movement. We are shifting our focus from the one iconic building approach (although those are still very important!), towards building and supporting historic, local neighborhoods with a broader focus and importance on sustainabilty, affordability and localism. We have seen so many of our “pre – auto” neighborhoods decline in our cities as a result of the expansion of the characterless suburban model. The millennial generation is so turned off by the suburban/pro car movement, we are flocking to cities, ditching cars and buying bicycles – which means those declining neighborhoods have the potential to be something awesome once again!
Having healthy, strong neighborhoods helps to build investment while maintaining stability, affordability and sustainability of our historic urban centers. The neighborhoods we value today are typically dense, mixed use and walkable. Maybe they are not always super historic in terms of fanciness and character however, at the end of the day, they add value to the urban core and the people who live within it.
Preservation 2.0 means that the small corner store and local watering hole matters. It means the not so nice house on an intact street deserves a second life – even if it doesn’t have original woodwork left or fancy glass windows. It means that heart bombing small houses for valentines day can happen and become a national hit. It means that the vacant lot should not remain a valueless, weedy mess but should become a small park, garden or community space in order to building and strengthen the community, not weaken it.
The really exciting thing to me is that as the preservation movement evolves, we have just began to explore areas like art, music, urban planning, sustainability etc… as well as engaging different ethnic and social-economic groups. Preservation is no longer just a high society thing, it has become a “this place matters” thing that all ages, races and classes can understand and support. We are lucky in Buffalo to have so many incredible people pushing preservation for the past 40 years – we are grateful to learn from them but excited to add our own twists to it. I am really excited to speak about Buffalo’s Young Preservationists (BYP), heart bombs, neighborhoods and Buffalo, NY at the 2013 Ted X Buffalo event!
Last night, Jason and I were on Massachusetts Avenue doing yard work, adding planters and securing the back porch. We are prepping for the big construction to begin – foundation work is almost done and the roofs start next week!
The teal concrete planters are now in – with succulent plant types to avoid theft. (And I think they are awesome!) I think the neighbors found them funny looking but we wanted something durable and unique. Hopefully the plants last through the week!
Jason has finally found his inner “Mr. Fix It”. He spent the evening securing the back porch, cleaning up debris and installing solar lighting. It is really cost effective to do the work yourself but also super rewarding to see it done.
Last night while we were working, the neighborhood kids kept showing us stuff – cars, cats, a headlamp… etc.. then they wanted to find snakes in the grass! I couldn’t help but join them – it sounded like fun. So we wandered through the vacant lot next door and we found ONE snake, a giant worm and a ton of spiders.
I walked away so happy because it was nice to see kids finding nature in the City – even if it was only a garden snake. Jason and I are in the process of purchasing the vacant lot where we found the snake from the City of Buffalo.. The value of an overgrown vacant lot to a kid is very high – as long it has snakes!
What a great day in the West Side of Buffalo. Anyhow, here are the photos.. take a look!