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Uncertain Future for 916-18 Main Street

The Allentown Historic Preservation District could be losing two more structures. Redevelopment plans for 916 Main Street have unraveled. Meanwhile, continuing water damage at neighboring City-owned 918 Main Street may result in an emergency demolition order according to alarmed neighborhood residents. Due to a common wall between the two structures, demolition of one could doom both buildings.
Reuse of the two buildings has been a neighborhood goal for sometime. Residents were encouraged when developer Robert Wulbrecht purchased 916 Main in 2005 and later signed a purchase agreement with the City for 918 Main. Wulbrecht’s planned retail and residential conversion project hit a roadblock when egress couldn’t be obtained for an emergency exit opening onto a parking lot owned by 20 Allen St. LLC, owners of Cathode Ray bar. 916 Main Street is now up for sale after Robert Wulbrecht’s death last year and the sales contract for 918 Main Street has been rescinded.
In 2004 the City applied to the Buffalo Preservation Board for approval to demolish 918 Main and was turned down. Neighbors are concerned that the City will now pursue an emergency demolition order for the structure. The four-story, Richardsonian Romanesque brick building is located next to the Red Jacket Apartments, south of Allen Street. It was a former carriage manufactory built in the 1880’s and designed by Cyrus K. Porter, a well-known Buffalo architect. While the front facade is intact, neighbors report the roof collapsed over two years ago and City officials acknowledge the deteriorating structural condition of the building is ‘very serious.’
Neighborhood organizations and residents are mobilizing and will be urging the City to stabilize the building and solicit redevelop plans. Any proposal would need to solve the ingress and egress issue. According to one City Hall source, it is unlikely that the City will pursue costly eminent domain to obtain rear easements without a viable reuse plan that makes financial sense. Another solution would be to construct a secondary fireproof interior stairway with egress to Main Street.
The 800 block of Main Street, bordering the Medical Campus and across from the Allen-Hospital light rail station, has seen significant investment in just the past year. Granite Works opened at the south end of the block, Zeptometrix is finalizing plans for expansion and renovations to the vacant mansion at 878 Main, a new restaurant is on track to open in 888 Main, and Hospice Buffalo moved offices into 892 Main. A gaping whole in the streetscape isn’t forward progress.
Get Connected:
Richard Tobe, Dept. of Economic Development, Permit and Inspection Services; Timothy E. Wanamaker, Director of Strategic Planning; John Hannon, Division of Real Estate; Chris Malachowski, Hunt Commercial Realty.

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