Officially On The Real Estate Market: City Owned Residential and Commercial Properties

Things have begun to change for the better in the Dept. of Real Estate in City Hall.

Christie Nelson, the new Director of Real Estate has officially put several City owned residential and commercial properties up for sale to the public.   The houses have for sale signs, they have been appraised and are now publicly listed for all to see. Right now there are 20 residential houses and eight commercial city owned properties on sale.  Considering the very limited resources to maintain the city owned properties, this is a very promising start.

For a list of all the residential properties, click here.

For a list of all commercial buildings for sale, click here.

If you are interested in learning more about the process of buying, check out the Department of Real Estate Website here.  The process of obtaining these is not an easy one however, for $5,000 – $10,000 dollars, you can essentially have your self a house with good bones, some historic character and a blank slate to make it what you want. Below are a couple of photos pulled from the residential listings found online.

This is a great step in the right direction for the Real Estate Department. Every house that is sold is one that is not demolished. The faster we can get these houses out of the hands of the City and into a private, local owner, the better. Let’s hope these opportunities go to local people who are ready, willing and able to rehab these structures and bring them back to life. You can read about a couple who are going buying a City Owned Property here. While the process has been long, the end result will be well worth it.

240 Timon Berkshire Front Exterior Berkshire Kitchen Berkshire Living Room Winslow

A Sad Day for Buffalo: Demolition of the Former North Baptist Church on Colvin/Tacoma in Buffalo, NY.

Another one is gone!

Another church is being demolished in the Queen City. This one was special, it graced a strong neighborhood with stable property values. It lived in an area that could have supported a creative reuse project.

No longer does this neighborhood have this historic gem to provide quality community space, jobs and cultural events. What is sad is, this one isn’t caving in like others still standing across the city. This one is stable, it is strong and reusable. Yet, it gets demolished because the owner neglected it’s property and the City gave in. Surprise!The owner was given a golden demolition ticket from the City of Buffalo, despite the fact that it qualifies to be a local landmark.

Buffalo was built when craftsmanship and detail was at an all time high in our county and in result, we have a building stock that is unlike any other. A cornucopia of building types built inspired by several styles.  This building is like a lot of them that are demolished… it’s built with three rows of brick, artisan detail in the woodwork from a profession that is no longer alive… arched windows that are no longer economically feasible to recreate and wood trusts that are made from old growth trees – a resource we have very little of these days. The buildings were built to last hundreds of years. They were built with pride, love and by ones who paid incredible attention to detail… something that we can no longer afford to built new today.

But this issue goes beyond the building. This church spent 100 years providing light and strength to families.  People married inside there. They celebrated, grieved and loved inside this structure. This was a community asset. Even the lawn gave back – it was a popular spot to play football for the neighborhood children.

So what’s next?

I hate to ask this simple question but – what is the plan?

Unfortunately, until Buffalo’s new construction market strengthens, we cannot afford to build new. With every structure demolished, we will struggle to find another use for the land and will remain vacant for years to come.

Will this become a dollar general? A neighborhood park? Will the owner neglect the land like they did the church? Will neighbors rally to create a historic district to protect another loss like this?

I often wonder if people who want this demolition realize that this now vacant lot will now reduce their property values. I wonder if they even ask themselves about the lack of city code enforcement or that if a new owner  had been found, a new rehab (raising property values and overall spirit!) would be happening in the neighborhood instead of the creation of a new vacant lot.

You have to ask yourself – What do you want to come of this lot? How can you avoid loosing assets like this in the future? What can we demand the owner to do? How can we repurpose this lot and make it a community asset?

My friends, demolition is not the answer. Let’s be creative, expect more and think outside of the box a little bit.

The Former North Baptist Church demo.
The Former North Baptist Church demo.

Demolition of the Cigar Building.

I took these tonight… I will post more info later. I’m mad, exhausted and annoyed with this.

This Cigar building is in a historic district and it’s history and charm sat vacant and rotting away for the past 10 years while the owner waited for an emergency demolition to be allowed. He purposefully did a demo by neglect and even worse, the preservation board was not told about this demolition. The whole process is illegal. It’s unacceptable. I doubt there were even fines or violations for this building. We need transparency in our government. The city does not want to be viewed as “pro demo” but continues to allow this?

I spoke with the Toronto owner rep on site at about 11pm tonight. He mentioned he’s been waiting to demolish it because now its a shovel ready site, which will help develop it because the building was a “burden” for the redevelopment. He pointed out the old safes still inside with the Buffalo, Ny engraved and that he had old posters he found inside that would be of value one day. I wish he saw value in the building like he did the posters…

What a missed opportunity. Looks like another parking lot will be here with no plan in sight.
More to come. Check for more info.




Getting Our Demolitions Under Control!

Over the last two days, the preservation community has been scrambling to pursuade the Lackawanna government to stop the demolition on the beautiful Bethlehem Steel Administration Building. We didn’t know it was coming that fast, no one was told and now we are in reaction mode. Most importantly, the demo contract has been given and there is very little we can do to stop this.

The problem is this. If there is a building that can be saved, we are either reacting to something else being demolished or we are so overwhelmed with other preservation issues that we cannot be proactive as a preservation community. This is not good.

What we need is an Anti Demolition Organization of Buffalo. A group that governments can call on to help market these buildings, to give public outreach and to stop/avoid  the most important buildings from being demolished on a Friday afternoon. A group that someone can call for a status update, to express concern and to potentially express interest in purchase! One group.. One phone number.. Simple, easy and to the point.

Right now, if you are interested in a house on the demo list – you would call the city. It would be sorta a headache because you don’t know who to talk to there or what to ask.. BUT what if you could call the demolition task force and say “tell me about this building” and their answers were solved? A group who knows the city processes, who to call to stop demolitions and who to call upon for resources, funding and insurance issues.

Furthermore, what if we could guide them down the best path to purchase it, which would take stress off of the cities hands. The dialogue could be between city and the group, eliminating the stress, headache and annoyances that the potential owner would deal with. Working together would be key and it could be done.  I mean, what if a weekly newsletter to talk about buildings that are important and push for marketing the most important ones? Or someone was there to document the success stories that we have? So many ideas are flowing right now…

Seriously, think about it. This could be a small group within PBN or even BYP could take it on. But it would have to be a small, dedicated group that would have to be focused on just that – stopping demolitions and getting these houses back on the tax rolls. We are too often scrambling and being reactive. Once we stop reacting and being proactive, we will be able to save buildings more and have our focus on marketing and getting the vacant properties some love.

There are so many other things that need to be done to control the demolitions.. however, establishing a group that can support and handle these buildings should be the first initiative. Just a thought. Who is up to start something like this??!!!?

Photo courtesy of Meagan Baco, Buffalo’s Young Preservationists

Surprise in the Suburbs!

As a real lover of buildings, bricks and cities, I was shocked to see this little guy siting vacant on TRANSIT ROAD in Depew.The bricks along the top north wall/parapet are falling from years of water infiltration.. But besides that, based on an exterior inspection, this is a cute little brick structure that could have a long, healthy life – if rehabbed and given some much needed TLC.
Unfortunately, by the looks of the barriers surrounding the place, this is probably slated for demolition.

The suburbs rarely have these older buildings and really should hold onto them, if they can… The cities have learned just how valuable these types of buildings are because of their adaptability and durability. They are classic and built with strong materials and techniques that are rarely used today.

I am curious to know what the fate of this little guy is.I am doing the research now….Stay tuned…


Understanding the Process of Purchasing a Demo House…

So, over the past week I have been very interested in one property that is on the most recent demo list from the City. It’s a great little house with so much exterior character. What it looks like inside? I don’t know yet. Why don’t I know? Because I need $5,000 dollars and an completed application to see inside of it. Sounds semi reasonable except I just want to see inside before I pull my resources together for the improvement cash. What if there is significant water damage? Or structural issues? Obviously, all things to look at even if it is for a real cheap price.

So I have started asking so many questions, wondering so many things about the process, who to talk and get advice from, how do you stop the demo if you are interested etc.. I have been wondering  the following…

  • Who else has done this that I can talk to about their experiences?
  • Is it hard to get insurance or a loan on a demo house?
  • Why and how do these amazing houses get onto the demo list in the first place?
  • How much are the houses worth when they are not in the homesteading area and can they be put into the homesteading program?

Okay, back to my potential little italianate house.. well, knowing certain people… I was able to get the demolition paused (thankfully!) because I sent an email through the right channels basically begging the powers that be for some time.. I have also been fortunate to email someone who connected me with the city real estate division right away (and they even responded on a weekend!) who quickly responded with the process of buying a demo house.

I have already had progress because I was lucky to know and contact certain people who know this process to guide me..  (which is awesome )… but what about the random person who wants to buy it that doesn’t know anyone who is familiar with the homesteading program? They may not know who to email or call, right?  And if they call city hall, they will get the information on the buying requirements and most likely be scared away by the requirements needed to be met –  just to see what the inside looks like.  An even bigger question is – what if they only have cash and no credit or bank account like some of our refugee families have who want to purchase a house?

So many questions and thoughts…

So before I do anything, my overall idea is to understand both sides of the issue and process first before acting, attacking or feeling alienated. One side of the process is the city – its policies, law requirements and what they are dealing with legally. The other side is the buyer – what he/she has to understand, undertake, learn and deal with – as part of the entire homesteading process. Once we know both of these processes well, perhaps we can make each more efficient? Perhaps we learn what works and doesn’t so we can help the future buyers out?

So, what do I do now? I do some research and understand.  I need to get a feel for what others have done in Buffalo but also what other cities have done. There are a lot of great houses out there that can and should be rehabbed. If the process was easier, the houses could potentially sell quicker… right?

My goal this week is to learn this process. Get a feel for it. Figure out why the city has the policies it has and how can we direct interested parties through the right channels.

More to come on this… If you have any insight, wisdom or websites you can connect me with, that would be amazing.