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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
  • Platt4

    The sooner Brown goes the better. I encourage everyone to pick up a copy of Business First where Brown was interviewed and said that all is well and things are looking up! Maybe in his bubbled world- the residents of the east side and elsewhere have a different opinion. But don’t bother criticizing him here, he said in the same interview he doesn’t read blogs and their negativity.
    When is Urkel’s term up? Can we find ANYONE with half a brain to take him on?

  • buffalofalling

    First, Byron Brown and his team of hand puppet department heads focused on ribbon-cuttings as proof of progress remain the City’s biggest obstacle to true renewal.
    Second, this continual slamming of any effort to provide housing that doesn’t meet this forum and people like Steel’s ideal of architectural grandeur and craftsmanship isn’t beneficial either. Hate to break it to you but it’s called economics, which the vast majority of people on this forum and in the preservation mindset fail to ever consider in their arguments for saving everything and ensuring only the highest level of detailed archiecture is allowed on any project.
    You’re arguing for brick I assume when it comes to exterior treatments, or maybe wood clapboard. Do some research on use value. All 3 means provide the same intended use, which is protecting the structure from the elements. It’s only those with a fetish for design that argue that above that, it shoudl exceed its use and economic value and add extra costs because that what YOU like. It’s as failed an argument as on could make, particulary with residential uses.
    So if I am correct, the city should rescue all dilapidated buildings, despite their being no use for them and pay the carrying costs to hold them in the event the city actually becomes relevant, and at the same time, all publically funded housing, be it single family or milti-family, should be designed by a starchitect and use on the highest quality materials without respect to cost. That’s a great economic model Steel, show me how it works and why don’t you uinvest in it? Oh, because you wouldn’t want to risk your own money right, but you don’t mind risking everyone’s!
    I really enjoy a lot about this site, but this incredibly irrational fascination with design and a complete and intential ignorance of reality is pretty sad. I think the passion is great, but the romance with days gone by isn’t getting us anywhere.
    We need substantive structural changes and even average leadership (what we have now is abysmal “leadership”.
    If this forum was truly committed, it’d be commited to political action through getting the right leaders in place to challenge the status quo.
    How is the city-county land bank application the Buffalo News called for coming along? Applications are due soon I’m told. It would be a great way to deal with properties in the city and county by actually focusing on it and taking the politice out of it.
    I’ll take bets of any amount that it never happens, that the City won’t play along.

  • buffloonitick

    Steel
    here’s a .pdf from MIT on adaptive reuse for churches.
    http://dspace.mit.edu/bitstream/handle/1721.1/35692/56409883.pdf?sequence=1
    I put the url up on your other article about Sacred Heart. maybe some useful info can be gleaned from this.

  • rustbeltcity

    Well said and very true.

  • Tom

    exactly. Stop bashing the Mayor and leadership. If you haven’t noticed the city has had more development in the past 5 years than the previous 20. Seriously. You could say this is all just a big coincidence, but then I ask you why in a time of “economic recession/depression” is Buffalo having the most growth. The leadership is fine (in the area, I wish Collins would have stayed but Poloncarz might still to a good job). This article about some east side church in an absolutely terrible neighborhood near nothing to draw people to it, while very fascinating and “romantic” is not realistic economically. Lets keep the momentum going on the west side, where people are starting to want to live again.Where it makes sense to do a project like this. And keep growing the medical facilities in the east side. While I generally agree with Steel’s ideas this one is too fantastic, I agree with the idea, just not the right place.

  • Tim

    We get it. The houses are plastic and banal. And plastic. You made that street look good though. Maybe it’s the blue sky, sun, and fresh pavement.
    The church is unfortunately too far gone. I will happily take the stained glass.

  • YesSir

    I would have to agree with BF, at some point we all need to graduate from the ivory tower and realize the real world involves real constraints, real issues and real choices. Ignoring those issues does not help nor further the conversation

  • Black Rock Lifer

    The vinyl sided crap being built in Buffalo and our suburbs is fair game for criticism. Vinyl is a cheap fix with high environmental costs that are not a part of the cost equation. Vinyl is toxic in the manufacturing process, toxic when burned, and is not recyclable. Vinyl is also butt ugly and displays a lack of even basic concern for quality and aesthetics. There are alternatives besides brick or clapboard. Cement fiber products such as Hardiboard are reasonable cost options for siding. The products come in styles to imitate clapboard, cedar shakes, or even stone.
    As for the existing housing stock, it would be more environmentally and economically responsible to invest in the best of our older homes than to continue building low quality, unattractive new homes that are unlikely to stand the test of time. These new homes are not going to age well and lack the charm and substance of our older stock.
    On Mayor Brown, he doesn’t understand the advantage we have in our built environment. He has failed to advocate for and capitalize on the great potential we have in our old homes and buildings. Our next mayor must recognize our assets and work to protect and exploit them, we can’t afford to continue to neglect the wealth of architecture resources of this city.

  • Black Rock Lifer

    Would that be the “real world” where we don’t pay for the full costs of our choices? Where the cheaper intial cost of vinyl is defended while ignoring the environmental costs and short life span of this product? Or is it the real world where developers call the shots and profit from the construction of this low quality crap? We don’t live in the real world, we subsidize developement, ignore long term consequences, and disregard the future costs associated with a throw away society.

  • RaChaCha

    As I asked on the article earlier this week about church dereliction, what do the local preservation organizations say about this building — but more importantly, about this issue in general–?
    And can we honestly expect City Hall to take another approach to vacant/derelict churches, or do anything different, if they haven’t been approached with a plan, a proposal, or even a request–?
    Anyone–?

  • The Kettle

    What makes your guy’s aesthetic preference of design better or more “real” than ours? Just because the suburban style infill homes meet your and BF’s standards of acceptability doesn’t make them better and it doesn’t make higher density development less “realistic.”
    Passing off one’s own preferences as more “real” than credible alternatives doesn’t further the conversation either.

  • Tim

    Isn’t lead and asbestos toxic too? Would you like to bring that back into rotation? What about paint chips? I understand what you’re saying abouth the built environment and such, but you come across as desperate to legislate your views on everybody else and spend other peoples money. Yes, other peoples money. It is their money. Not the collective conscience.

  • Travelrrr

    Amen, BlackRock. Very succinctly put-thanks.

  • Rand503

    You don’t know much about current construction.
    Every other year in Washington, DC, there is a solar decathlon. It’s a contest for architectural students around the globe, and the contest is to build the most energy efficient 1000 sq.ft. house that they can, using only renewable energy, such as solar, wind, passive and anything else they can dream up. There are 20 finalists, and the range and breadth is amazing. Prizes are given in three categories: Most energy efficient, most efficient use of recycled materials, and architectural beauty.
    Although most of the houses are custom built and quite expensive (since each is unique and built from scratch), each contest has at least one that is intended for low income use. I recall one that was particularly nice that is being used to build low income housing in Atlanta. Although even then the cost if a bit higher than one of the garbage houses seen above, the energy savings more than make up the costs.
    These houses are built to be beautiful enough that people will want to actually live there, and they are cost effective.
    Buffalo could easily take any of these house designs and modify them and build them out on a scale that would make them cost effective, as Atlanta and other places are currently doing.
    The point is that it is a false choice to think that we must either do the crap that is built on the East Side and some expensive architectural statement. Buffalo, if it chose to, could actually be a leader in energy conservation houses that are interesting to look at and still provide needed housing.

  • defender110

    alot of talk; but after seeing this shocking and deplorable state of this beautiful building ; paticularly the inside; it’s heart wrenching and as well as feel disgust. People must organize to save and prevent further destruction of all these architectural masterpieces now ! . I can see Buffalo is definitely on the upswing, so now we must cross Main st and double our efforts to save these buildings as well as re-invigorate the East side so to encourage other uses for the same. Buffalo is the recipient of must international praise recently but this whole East side thing is such a blot and disgrace for the city and we need a strong (government and community) to do something about it today.

  • whatever

    platt>”When is Urkel’s term up? Can we find ANYONE with half a brain to take him on?”
    Next election year for mayor is 2013. I’m no fan of the mayor, but unless a major scandal happens (like felony indictments for example) or hiring of Brown by Cuomo or Obama, I’d think Brown will be a heavy favorite for re-elect with high approval in public opinion polls as in 2009.
    Steel>”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.”
    I’d predict even if there’s another candidate on the ballot (either a challenger if Brown runs again or a replacement if he doesn’t), he or she will also not promise to use city govt $ for old church buildings. Then the same complaints can eventually happen using someone else’s name and nickname.
    Similarly, none of the nine Council members have suggested it either – have they – even those in the anti-Byron faction? Or Brown’s opponent last time, who’s now by the way is running on the R line for state assembly – too funny!
    Once in a while the mayor and Council do spend city $ on an old private building like the $500k I think it was for Livery/Savarino. I can’t prove it, but I think the main reason they do is to pander to fans of old buildings. Perhaps it works politically, even if that $500k could have been much better spent and it doesn’t make sense to subsidize adding of those 14 or so apts to Buffalo’s surplus of similar housing units.
    So, a few here and there, sure, but to do it on a much larger scale sounds very far fetched no matter who is the mayor or who’s on the Council.

  • STEEL

    The story does not mention the mayor. If it indicts anyone it is the people of Buuffalo and WNY in general who elect officials to do their bidding. These officials have done exactly what the people have asked them to do. The last 60 years of that policy have been abject failure on almost every level.
    You seem inclined to keep with the scattershot plastic house approach. Say why not try something a bit more bold like develope a plan with a goal in mind. I have suggested the outline of such a plan. Isn’t it worth a try? making a plan for why you are doing something?

  • STEEL

    The only thing irrational is to follow the same failed policies without question. Oh, also irrational is the total ignorance to quality design that allows for the building of ugly and wasteful built environment we have come to accept as good enough.

  • RobH

    Everyone wants to point to this as a failure of government, but shouldn’t it really be civic institutions that take the lead here?
    Specifically, Preservation Buffalo Niagara should be identifying these types of buildings, then forming groups of concerned citizens dedicated to the preservation and/or restoration of each of them.
    Active involved citizens will accomplish far more than city government. They’ll do some of the work as volunteers, they’ll raise funds, and they’ll elevate awareness. But they do need some umbrella organization to coalesce around and provide the financial infrastructure.
    Take a look at this remarkable success story (ironically, out in the suburbs), which began with a Landmark Society/PBN purchase in 1992. http://www.hullfamilyhome.org/

  • r-k-tekt

    Aesthetics aside, vinyl is just not a durable, long lasting product. Spending public money on homes that have a life of about 20 years is irresponsible.
    The City Did a very successful urban housing development in the 80’s…Georgia-Prospect. They are urban in scale, densely situated and made of durable, renewable materials…brick, clapboard and shingle. They sold initially for around $40,000 with a subsidy. Today they sell for around $200,000. I’m sure they will be around well into the century.
    The city did it once…learn from success, do it again.
    The cheap, scattershot method just does not work.

  • Lego1981

    The title of this artical pretty much sums up what’s wrong with this city. We have NO plans!!!! We allow suburan style crap to be built while current stock is rotting away. We knock down buildings with no plans to re-use that land. No vision, just go with the flow.

  • rustbeltcity

    Put your money where your mouth is. Cross Main and buy a home in one of those neighborhoods. As to Buffalo’s Upswing, it’s not growing, just getting some much needed rehab done.

  • pampiniform

    I mentioned this church in that thread the other day. I have always been impressed by how this church was neatly tucked into what must have been a nice little residential neighborhood at one time. But unfortunately, the street now is pretty much similar to every other street in that part of the east side, in that is a couple of houses surrounded by ever expanding urban prairie. In fact, I would bet that in a couple of years, the density in that area may be less than what you’d see in the suburbs.
    I don’t think it’s fair to dump this on the mayor. I don’t know that anyone knows what to do with the east side. The whole economic model that drove the creation of the east side (large immigrant communities who primarily worked industrial jobs) is gone and never coming back.
    One thing I can think that might help over there is to keep tearing down vacant houses. I know it would be nice to save them all, but as it stands, there are far too many empty/boarded up/ burned out houses over there. By demolishing those numerous houses over there, it reduces the oversupply and makes the surviving houses more valuable. It can also help to stabilize existing neighborhoods. I know there is a lot of talk about the “broken window theory,” and this is good example of that. If you have one of the houses on your block become a vacant house with all the windows gone or it turns into a crackhouse, you’ve got a problem. If these things are let go, they can behave like a tumor, destroying a whole neighborhood in short order.
    As for the issue of those “plastic” houses, personally I think a streetful of them looks a lot better than a half empty street full of urban prairie and the occasional house. If you don’t like vinyl siding, then why don’t you move into the neighborhood and build a house to your liking. Or you could invest money into building houses that meet your aesthetic sensibilities while being economically viable. Or you could bid on a HUD contract to build these things and then build them in a way that you think looks nice.

  • Lego1981

    When you think ‘plastic’ most will invision ‘suburban’. Why do we even have these in the city in the first place? Who’s allowing it?…Our so called ‘leaders’ (if that’s what you want to call them). The artical even mentions how some of these new ‘plastic’ houses are already boarded up. My guess is, the owners probably moved to the ‘burbs’ to live the real suburban life. NOT the fake one put in the ‘hood’.

  • pampiniform

    Wow, that’s pretty harsh. I don’t suppose you actually live in one of these neighborhoods, do you? Do you work a semi – skilled job in Buffalo’s healthcare sector, or as a janitor at one of the buildings downtown? Say a job where you’re maybe on the cusp of being a part of the working poor? I bet if you were, you’d look a lot differently at these houses. You’d probably be happy to be able to afford a house in a reasonably stable neighborhood. One that is built to fairly modern standards with a nice little yard for your kids. I’m pretty sure what the house is sided with would be pretty low on your list of major concerns. But of course, you know better than these people, right?
    I think that the fact that there are a few of these things boarded up ( I have seen one or two myself, also have seen some boarded up ones be reoccupied)is more a statement of the economic health of that area rather than the construction standards of these new houses. If you leave a house in a lot of these neighborhoods unsecured, the pipes and wires will be gone before long.

  • Buffalo4buffalonian

    [off topic – 2 strikes your are out]

  • Rand503

    Again, you seem to refuse to understand that good design (by that I mean good design not just for the family who occupies the house but the neighborhood as well) is expensive or cost prohibitive.
    News flash: It costs just as much to build an ugly building as it does a nice one.
    A nice building can be done with vynal siding, and it can have a nice yard. Good design can save huge amounts of money on energy costs — wouldn’t the janitor appreciate that?
    I just don’t understand this patronizing attitude that poor people should be satisfied with the worst that we can offer just because we can’t think up something better.

  • pampiniform

    >Again, you seem to refuse to understand that good design (by that I mean good design not just for the family who occupies the house but the neighborhood as well) is expensive or cost prohibitive.
    I think you forgot to put a “not” in there somewhere.
    So if you have a problem with the way they are designing the houses/streets, what are you doing about it? Are you building houses down there yourself? Are you bidding on contracts to build these things? Or are you just critiquing these designs from your safely detached perspective?

  • Travelrrr

    I do, in part, blame the Mayor. I blame him for not being a leader, I blame him for not being a visionary and I blame him for not thinking creatively about “how to deal with the East Side”, as you put it.
    There are many other communities, such as Flint, Michigan and Syracuse, which have adopted progressive, proactive programs to counter deterioration of neighborhoods, population loss, etc.
    For one, landbanking, which the Mayor cannot seem to roll out (which seems mostly to do with the fact that it was championed by Sam Hoyt-again, politics gets in the way). This would encourage SMART demolition, as opposed to what they are doing now: scattershot with NO PLAN.
    Second, Syracuse is giving away houses and buildings to students, artists and other members of the creative class for $1. This encourages re-investment and fosters some new fresh blood.
    Again, the Mayor can’t seem to take ANY actions (the Homestead program is woefully inadequate), and, thus, lives the city constantly behind the eight ball.

  • Lego1981

    I do live in the city, NOT in a plastic home. If I wanted that type of home, I’d move to the burbs. Why do allow the city to look like the burbs in the first place. We should’nt be competing, instead be a CITY, have different design standards. It’s no wonder places (outside the East Side) have more investments and people moving into instead of out!!!

  • Black Rock Lifer

    “Other peoples money”? no, as a taxpayer and citizen it is my right to criticize wasteful spending. These plastic houses are being built with public dollars which puts them clearly in the realm of “public conscience”.

  • whatever

    “The story does not mention the mayor.”
    If I’m not mistaken, references to The City and The City of Buffalo, (capital T’s and C’s), as in your article usually refer to city govt. That’s why it looked to me that you were blaming the mayor and perhaps Common Council members, since those 10 people are who have power to make the city govt’s policy decisions.
    Now your comment clarifies you meant to blame Buffalo’s residents (voters) for electing who they have.
    I’d partly agree and partly disagree about that.
    Yes, it makes sense to blame residents/voters for long term city govt policies.
    And no, I still don’t think it makes sense for voters to expect any elected govt officials to directly try to ensure that a lot more private old buildings are saved, such as churches.
    Steel>”You seem inclined to keep with the scattershot plastic house approach. Say why not try something a bit more bold like develope a plan with a goal in mind. I have suggested the outline of such a plan. Isn’t it worth a try?”
    To answer that, there’s a few separate topics.
    First, I wouldn’t have the govt involved with the church building part of what your article suggests (“The City might have determined that we have to use its limited resources on saving something unique like this church and its street.”)
    Second, about “plastic house approach”, no I don’t favor the city subsidizing those. If you thought I did, I don’t know why. I’m not against it because they’re plastic or suburban – I’m against the govt giving $ to build any new houses like for example Byron Brown, Mickey Kearns, etc did for Sycamore Village. Very dumb use of public $.
    However, if a developer wants to fund and build suburban style homes on some vacant private land somewhere in the city, I’d say it should be allowed. Some people might prefer that style of house. It’s a matter of taste.
    Last, about the “plan”, I’d answer your question with another question:
    why should it have to be any big centralized top-down plan involving the city govt? Why shouldn’t there just be many different independent plans in the private sector, bottom-up, separate from city govt (except for reasonable laws/zoning/etc)?

  • Rand503

    OH good lord. So I have no voice in how our city is built, destroyed or governed unless I am actually building something? I guess then I can’t criticize our wars in the middle east because I’m not actively fighting al Queda.
    Your comment isn’t a response; it’s an attempt to shut up people who say things you disagree with. If you don’t like it, then just skip over it.

  • benfranklin

    When a person is passionate about something, they often can see where the ‘market’ has chosen to go, and where it might have gone if it had better information.
    I’ve see it recently with the Keurig coffee makers (they use the plastic filters to brew one cup). People in the coffee industry are outraged at this little coffee brewer, for many of the same reasons that steel and brl despise sprawl. (“The plastic/(insert vinyl siding) will be in the landfill for years!!!”)
    We’d think it silly (I hope, but probably not for long) that a politician should get involved with legislation related to how we brew our coffee.
    Interesting to think that when we had politicians that believed ‘smaller is better’, we were able to generate the profits needed to build the beautiful old structures in Buffalo. If we were less selfish, maybe we’d be a bit more concerned about allowing our grandchildren the wealth to build buildings that their grandchildren will be able to enjoy.
    Every professional, no matter what the field, sees a disparity between where we are, and where we ought to be. Buffalo Rising gives Steel a place to vent, while the rest of just keep to our work.

  • pampiniform

    No, of course you have a voice in the matter, and you should use it! What I’m saying is that if you feel this strongly about this issue, what are you doing about it? Why aren’t you exercising your right to protest this? Present a plan to the builders, or bid on a contract. If you don’t like the way they build houses, why don’t you show those incompetent fools down there how to build a house that is both economical and stylish you say they can build. That’s the way it’s supposed to be done in a democracy, isn’t it?
    Or, if you like, you can just continue to complain about it.

  • whatever

    Good point, ben – what was the big centralized top-down plan from City Hall when so many buildings were built here in the early 1900s? Very likely the plan was provide basic services, enforce the laws, and leave it up to the people and businesses to decide what the set of buildings should or shouldn’t be.

  • RaChaCha

    A full day later and all I hear are crickets, RaChaCha. So far, no one from any local preservation organization has taken a stab at answering your question — here, or on the previous article where you asked a similar question. 😛

  • The Kettle

    Comparing sprawl housing to coffee makers isn’t close to being an accurate comparison.
    Sprawl housing (density, height, lot size, materials setback etc.) is mandated by zoning whereas people are free to choose brewed coffee over instant or other choices. There are also historic precedents of sprawl housing getting preferential treatment in government financing at the expense of alternatives. No such state sanctioned red lining occurred in the coffee industry.
    I don’t know if I should laugh or cry over the way some falsely paint their own preferences for housing as the will of “the market” while overlooking the seemingly obvious “top down” government policies/subsidies that make these preferences possible.
    Argue market principals if you like. However, if you do so, you should be on the smart growth side of the issue, not the subsidized sprawl one.

  • The Kettle

    Whatever> “…and leave it up to the people and businesses to decide what the set of buildings should or shouldn’t be.”
    True but the overwhelming majority of those people and businesses chose neighborhoods that were built in a manner that this board’s pro-sprawl faction would find offensive and/or un-“realistic.” Mixed use, multi-modal transit (including cars), density, relatively inclusive socio-economic structure, and multiculturalism. It wasn’t until a lot of “top down” government regulations and subsidies were enacted that the present day low-density model aka “reality” and will of the “market” came to being.

  • brownteeth

    In all honesty, many people out there, including the demographic intended for the plastic subsidized houses, could care less about architecture, design, layout etc. They’re happy to have a house to live in. Many people have no real opinion of architecture and therefore don’t consider aesthetics when buying a home.
    I wish there were more thought put into it but the reality is that it takes a lot more effort to build and sell homes you suggest than to just keep building the same crap. And what really is the value? To please a minority of people that are passionate about architecture even though they will likely never even see these homes in person (let alone live in them)because they rarely even travel to or through these neighborhoods?
    I’m of the opinion to pick your battles wisely. The west side is already getting a lot of momentum and attention and has just as many beautiful buildings ripe for restoration with the added necessity of residents to occupy and utilize them. It would seem there is a plan already and people are acting on it on the west side.
    If we should push the City to act anywhere it may as well be the West Side. Hopefully when that area is reasonably filled they can turn their attention to the East Side. Otherwise we are just spreading the resources thin and we will never see any real tangible improvement anywhere in the city.

  • Buffalo_Resurrection

    Sadly, this building is almost a total write-off and I would suggest that the structure be architecturally salvaged from someone as-like Buffalo Reuse.

  • pampiniform

    I don’t it’s accurate to say they chose to live in these types of neighborhoods. There really wasn’t much of a choice for the immigrants that lived in this neighborhood when it was built. This was the part of town you lived in because it had the rents you could afford as a laborer. It was the place you lived because it was typically an enclave of your particular ethnicity. There were support structures in place (churches, social clubs)that made the transition to a new life in a new country easier.
    I think the interesting thing is that you say people chose to live there. But what do you think they did when they bailed out of there? They chose to live somewhere else is what they did. Just like they don’t choose to live there now. So what is your plan to get them to move down there?

  • The Kettle

    Pamp> “I don’t it’s accurate to say they chose to live in these types of neighborhoods. There really wasn’t much of a choice for the immigrants that lived in this neighborhood when it was built.”
    But it wasn’t just immigrants. Most people living in a metropolitan area chose, by necessity or preference, to live in the type of living environment that myself and others are calling for more of. Immigrant wards were dense but so were affluent areas like Richmond, Parkside, and N Buffalo. Back then there was no nationalized mortgage system, nanny codes that forbid building in proximity of other land uses, massive public highways.
    Public policies that encouraged subsidy-based sprawl style housing and discouraged market-based compact development led to sprawl being mainstream and wrongly perceived as a product of choice.

  • pampiniform

    When they built up the East Side there was really no other alternative. If you wanted to live out where Cheektowaga/ Depew is, you’d have been living out in farm country. In those days before most people could afford cars you had to live close together and close to where you work. Once cars became more affordable, people became more mobile and it was no longer a necessity to live in these types of neighborhoods. It was the same for rich neighborhoods and poorer ones. People moved out to the suburbs where they could have their little yards and a little privacy, and when they moved they took their political/ economic influence with them. That’s where the will to build the highways came from and why they passed building codes like that out in the suburbs. That, coupled with GI benefits that returning veterans got after the war, allowed them to buy houses out in the suburbs. They could have used those same benefits to buy houses in the city ( and a lot of them did).
    >Public policies that encouraged subsidy-based sprawl style housing and discouraged market-based compact development led to sprawl being mainstream and wrongly perceived as a product of choice.
    So where did the money come from to pay for these subsidies? And how does the market discourage compact development? If there were a market for it, people would be lining up for it, wouldn’t they? It was a choice to move to the suburbs, they were free to stay in the neighborhoods, but they didn’t.

  • RPreskop

    As beautiful and architecturally significant as this abandoned church is unfortunately it looks to far gone and too structurally deteriorated to repair and restore. The long years of neglect and decay have definitely taken their toll on this unwanted, historic property. It appears that water damage is very serious in the interior and nothing has been done to protect this structure from the elements. Sadly to say but demolition looks like the only viable answer for this abandoned, decayed landmark. I agree that it is time for Byron Brown to be voted out of office. The man is all appearences and no substance. He has no leadership ability and Buffalo has suffered for it. However, it is also time to get rid of the democratic party from Buffalo City Hall. Almost 50 years of monopoly rule by the democrats and what does the City of Buffalo have to show for it? The obvious answers, decline and disinvestment of the city’s east side and parts of the lower west side, a lousy public school system, crumbling aging infrastructure, failed urban renewal programs and equally failed silver bullets like the light rail line, convention center, Main Place Mall and office tower, the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino. In 2013, lets evict the democratic party out of the mayor’s chair and do the same to the common council when their reelection comes up. It is time for a major change in Buffalo. Enough of the democrats failed, costly urban policies in our city.

  • Tim

    Sorry for being feisty. I just feel that your first paragraph is logically flimsy. I also would prefer higher design, but there are pros and cons to a lot of materials. I personally don’t find vinyl siding offensive. It’s more so the style, shape, proportion, and layout of the houses that I don’t like. Brick can be expensive, and wood tough to upkeep. I also don’t understand how the toxicity of the production process affects anyone. I’m sure it is contained properly in the production host communities. Also, lots of products are toxic, including the production of ‘green’ technologies.
    In the neighborhood that I grew up in in Hamburg which was built in 1990, no one really has issues with the vinyl. As far as I know they have just needed a power washing once in a while. The maintenance has been negligible and that’s why people like it.
    The fact that the city half-haphazardly replaced demolished houses with that crap that looses half of its value as soon as the keys are turned, well you’re right about that. The city should be held to higher standards for sure, when they are paying for the development. Ideally the $20,000 they spend to demolish certain houses would be much better spent fixing them up and selling them to responsible homeowners, or extending the urban fabric east from the core. They look pretty bad, and some seem to already be decaying. But I think that’s due to deferred maintenance by the owners rather than crappy materials.
    Anyhow, it seems like larger cities have higher quality developers and create ‘better’ neighborhoods.

  • Tim

    Um, that was a response to Blackrocklifers’ comments. Oops.

  • STEEL

    Plastic house is just short hand for a poorly designed characterless cheaply built house on a too large lot that does nothing to define public space in the way traditional cities have for millennia. You are absolutely correct that the composition of buildings working together as a whole is the more important criteria in building good cities.

  • STEEL

    Same as many buildings that HAVE been saved.

  • JohnMarko

    Speaking of cementitious fiber siding, I read a while back a technical critique that suggested that the material was not entirely that good and had some major drawbacks. I am/was skeptical of that critique, since I read about it only once.
    I’ve used it successfully in exterior renovations in Reno, NV and other places, and I thought it maintainted itself quite well. It is more diffcult to install, since you have to pre-drill all the fastener holes and then patch them well.
    But you’re general thrust is still valid: there are many other materials, new and existing, that mimic wood and other more maintenence intensive and expensive products, that lend themselves quite nicely for adaptive renovations, and should not be ruled out of hand.

  • The Kettle

    Pamp> “Once cars became more affordable, people became more mobile and it was no longer a necessity to live in these types of neighborhoods.”
    That’s incorrect. Mass automobile ownership began in the early twenties when duplexes, apartment buildings, and compact singles were the dominant housing styles and continued to be until WWII. Separated use, low-density housing didn’t become mainstream until after the war when regulations and subsidies enacted in the depression combined with other subsidies and market factors to steer investment away from city neighborhoods.
    Pamp> “GI benefits that returning veterans got after the war, allowed them to buy houses out in the suburbs. They could have used those same benefits to buy houses in the city ( and a lot of them did).”
    Generally speaking, this is also incorrect. Government mortgages taken out by GIs and others were steered away from certain city neighborhoods through criteria that encouraged sprawl. Features like racial/ethnic diversity, age of housing, and linear street grids were viewed as risks and neighborhoods that possessed these features were denied funding.
    These are important pieces of history that are often forgotten when people falsely claim sprawl/urban decline are simply the result of the market.