The Greystone Hotel, a perennial icon of Buffalo's decay, is this month's entry on our Preservation Ready List of 10 must save buildings. The building, located at 24 Johnson Park in downtown Buffalo, is featured in the March issue of Buffalo Spree. The Spree story gives a detailed history of the building leading up to today's almost generation long vacancy. The magazine documents what it describes as a gradual decline starting with a 1958 foreclosure auction. Since then the building suffered a series degradations of use and slid through the hands of a long list of inept owners finally landing in the real estate portfolio of Carl Paldino's Ellicott Development. Ellicott Development purchased the building in 2002 for a sum of $150,000.
Paladino has off and on proposed renovations and demolition for the building over the years. I believe it has been empty for the entire Paladino tenure. In 2003 interior demolition was begun in preparation for a proposed renovation. This work was abruptly halted after a worker and his construction vehicle crashed through the roof to the floor below.
At last report the hole is still in the roof and the building interior has been exposed to the elements for over 7 years. Over this period City Housing Court issued 34 appearance orders to Ellicott for code violations in the building. In recent months construction workers have been seen at the Greystone and its west side has sported a bright yellow construction chute. This may be related to work authorized by an asbestos abatement permit issued by the City for the building in December.
Ellicott Development says that they are preparing the Greystone for 24 affordable rental apartments. No official announcement of this project has been made and no plans or renderings have been provided. Repeated attempts by BRO to contact Ellicott for comment on the building have been unsuccessful. Hopefully renovation is for real this time. Neighbors say they have seen no recent activity and the yellow trash chute has been removed.
The Greystone Hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is a very important part of Buffalo's urban architectural heritage. Its beautifully dense use of its site provides a wonderful companion to its neighbor the the east. The urban space it creates on the street is very special with its delicate Ionic style portico stretching out over the sidewalk to the curb edge - a feature seen at no other place in the city (or many other places for that matter). The building has a beautiful and highly detailed classical facade cast in reinforced concrete. It is one of the earliest uses of the material (perhaps even the first large scale use of reinforced concrete) Loss of this building would be unconscionable.
It is a mystery to me how the city could allow the building to stand with a hole in its roof for almost eight years. So many of the losses to irreplaceable historic heritage in Buffalo stem from a simple hole in the roof. Why is this an acceptable way to manage property in Buffalo? Is the claim of renovation legit this time? It sure would be great to remove this building from the Preservation Ready list by adding it to the long list of recent successes in this part of the city.
As the Greystone rotted, its neighborhood began to prosper. The surrounding blocks have seen a serge of new investment in the 10's of millions of dollars. The Avant building, just blocks away, has quickly become Buffalo's wealthiest neighborhood with units selling into the low seven-figures. Just steps from the Greystone is the restored Babeville Church and a new office building filled with bank executives. Also nearby are the Channel 2 broadcast studios and the lovely Johnson Park with its ring of elegant victorian houses. This building must be saved!
The "Preservation Ready" project is aided by the efforts of the Bethune Society of Architectural Historians, The Buffalo Expat Network, and a growing list of individuals such as photographer Joe Cascio who want to spread the word that Buffalo's built historic heritage represents an opportunity for Buffalo not an obstacle. Its an effort to assist Buffalo realize its true potential through the leveraging of its historic buildings.
"Preservation Ready" is a multi-part approach creating and publicizing a list of important buildings which must be saved. The effort is being pushed by a non-aligned volunteer group of people who are concerned about the extreme loss of the irreplaceable historic heritage that makes Buffalo special. The goal is to put these buildings into the public consciousness and keep them there. If you are interested in this preservation effort and would like to get more involved in saving Buffalo's buildings please join the Facebook group "Preservation-Ready Sites" so we can get back in touch with you. If you are not on Facebook, feel free to contact us through Buffalo Rising. The more people that step forward with their concerns and efforts, the more others will see and understand the urgency of saving buildings like this.
The List so far:
110-12- South Park ( Blacksmith Shop)