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Where is the plan? That’s right, we don’t have one. (REPOST)

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I am reposting this story  from about 2 years ago because this church is miraculously still around.  I came across a more recent image of the building on Facebook and it looks like some rudimentary work has actually been done to stabilize the building including patching the crumbling brick facade.  Does anyone know anything about this?  This is one that can really make a difference in rebuilding this battered neighborhood.  It can and should  be saved. 
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[update]
Interior images are used by permission of  the web site Views of Buffalo.  You can view many more church images at Views of Buffalo’s Impernity page here. By the way, Views of Buffalo is a must read for any Buffalo addict.
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This is the former EV Ref Salem’s Kirche built in 1907 located at 413 Sherman Street in Buffalo.  It has been vacant for years. It recently popped up in conversation on Buffalo Rising and on the Preservation Ready Facebook page. David Torke at Fix Buffalo has been writing about the plight of this wonderful little church for years.  I had wanted to write about it after I saw it on his blog but never got around to it.  That is the way the East Side is – we never get around to it. Torke even titles a recent story on the building “Salem Evangelical: In the hood and off the radar”.  He notes that when he first ventured into the open building he found it with all of its amazing detail including its beautiful stained glass intact. Today the brick walls are crumbling and water pours in wide holes in the roof.  It is a wreck now but still holds much of its beauty.  Its congregation moved out when they could no longer afford the heat.
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Salem is a beautifully proportioned small church on a pretty residential street.  Even though more than half the houses have been demolished the street’s mature tree canopy and human scale make this an inviting place to be. The diminutive size of this church would have made this an easy building to reuse if it had not been neglected for so long.  After years of unchecked deterioration it will now be a heavy lift to bring it back, most likely requiring public investment to return it to productive use.  This is a sad “could have been” story.  This church likely is going to the dump now. It is in the wrong neighborhood and the City of Buffalo has no plan at all to save architectural treasures like this and worse seems to not think it needs one.
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In the Buffalo Rising discussion on this building I offhandedly said that there are probably a dozen or so new plastic houses near this church.  I was referring to the cheaply built government subsidized houses that The City haphazardly scatters around emptied-out parts of the East and West Sides.  The houses are constructed using millions of tax dollars with seemingly no goal in mind and no goal ever attained.  Another commenter chimed in stating that in fact there were several of the plastic houses nearby.  The new houses are devoid of craft or creativity.  They don’t define a space or make for a memorable place.
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As they were building these banal plastic palaces this church was rotting away within eyesight.  What is the purpose of these forgettable houses? They are likely to be torn down themselves in the near future (driving around the East Side you will find many already boarded up).  Perhaps they make comfortable homes for some who would not have had one otherwise and I don’t intend to disparage the people who live in and own these new houses.  I just think that we could have had much better than this, benefitting more people for the same money if there was a smart and strategic investment plan in place.
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If there was a plan The City might have determined that we have to use its limited resources on saving something unique like this church and its street. With a plan they might have recognized the power of historical assets like this church.  If they had they would have saved a special place like this (and many others) that people would care about and invest in for the long-term.
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Imagine the type of creative intelligent people who might have taken a chance on this neighborhood for the right to live in this church, with its gorgeous windows and amazing alter mural.
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Imagine if the city had focused its attention on shoring up this pretty little tree-lined street, making it into a neighborhood people cared about.  Instead we get scatter-shot plastic houses plopped around in the worst sprawl-scape you can imagine with the added benefit of a rotting dangerous building.
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Its not that hard to make a plan with goals.  For my entire life the city and its suburbs have followed the same lame, do nothing, thoughtless path of sprawl and disinvestment.  How many decades does it take to recognize complete failure before you change your way of doing things?
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Written by STEEL

STEEL

Architect ( a real one, not just the armchair type), author of "Buffalo, Architecture in the American Forgotten Land" ( www.blurb.com ), lover of great spaces, hater of sprawl and waste,
advocate for a better way of doing things.

518 posts