Remember this past summer when the 500 Block of Main Street went to great lengths to beautify a run down old alleyway? It was a tremendous effort that paid off for the district, mainly because a neglected eyesore was turned into a vibrant and popular artistic feature. Now the company that operates the pass through, Allpro Parking LLC has notified the neighborhood that they intend to erect a fence along Main Street, thus preventing people from walking across what is private property. To me, I'm perplexed and upset that this is the 'thanks' that some people get for attempting to clean up this city. At the same time, Allpro has been kind enough to allow neighbors to come up with an alternate solution that the company may or may not consider. I understand that there are liability issues now that more people are accessing the property, but this is Main Street... and for the first time in decades we are seeing public and private investment.
Why put a fence up now, after all these years?
While this may not appear to be catastrophic news to some, there is hope that the artists, the community and friends of the 500 Block who have been promoting the area as an artistic and friendly block may be able to come up with a better alternative than a fence... quick! "The private lot adjacent to MAIN(ST)UDIOS is more than an unused alley," said Erica Eichelkraut Zilbauer, gallery manager MAIN(ST)UDIOS. "It is a part of our streetscape and a piece of the 500 Block community. It is an opening in the block that has endless potential. Cities around the world have transformed empty lots and unused alleyways into productive civic spaces that benefit the surrounding neighborhoods; this is our chance to learn from these examples & create something truly unique to Buffalo. While there are many ideas bouncing around, the concept of an "art alley" seems to be on the top of the list.
"An outdoor courtyard where downtown workers can sit & eat their lunch, read a book or play checkers on painted benches and tables, surrounded by murals, sculptures and garden boxes is my personal dream. We can re-use older furniture and planters, have artists contribute work and create the first ever public 'artyard' within the downtown business district. This is all very do-able, however the major problem we are facing is the liability issue, the fact that Allpro wants monthly rent on the lot, and that they notified us at the end of the business day yesterday and have allowed only ONE week to pull together proposals and gather funding, with no guarantee that they will accept any ideas offered.
"The 500 Block has gained so much momentum over the past year, and created a name for itself as new arts destination. The current mural (over 60' long, created this July by three local artists) has become a huge draw for the 500 Block; the threat of a fence that will cover this up is heart-breaking.
"Fencing the area off will only create another dead-zone on the block. I don't see any difference here than having another empty, abandoned storefront. I also do not understand how they will be able to proceed with this without having gone before the Preservation Board, as this is a historic district.
"What happens to this lot is important to the block, to downtown and to Buffalo. It is a clear cut example of a private company being given the opportunity to assist their community in change OR hinder all of the current efforts. I anxiously await the outcome."
We are hoping that Buffalo Rising readers might be able to help solve the issue and come up with a solution that benefits all parties, sooner rather than later.