Over the past couple of years I’ve been watching the development progress that has taken place on Wadsworth Street in Allentown. A few weeks ago we witnessed the demolition of the nearby Falcon Building. That was unfortunate for the street, but at the same time, a few doors down Wendes Jones and Kenneth Beaver have been working on solidifying a good portion of the street. As a matter of fact, the couple now owns half of the properties on the east side of Wadsworth (four out of eight). All of the properties but one (the original house) moved forward with the help of the Community Preservation Corporation (CPC).
According to Wendes that was not the original intention. Three years earlier Ken came up to Buffalo from Baltimore after a former employer convinced him to consider a job. After visiting the city he called Wendes and told her that he really like it here. “I was quite surprised,” she told me. “So I came to take a look and discovered that Buffalo is much better than people had led me to believe. At that point I was very involved with my work back in Baltimore, and at the same time Ken began to commute from Baltimore to Buffalo weekly. He did that for two years. Finally he got sick of the commute and asked if I wanted to move up to Buffalo. I told him that if he found me a project that I would move.
“We ended up buying 19 Wadsworth… the little green house that was built in the 1880’s. Then we purchased 23 next-door. We were hoping that we could park our cars across the street in the lot since there was a sign that said to call… but in the end he refused to rent two spaces to us. So we looked into purchasing the vacant lot next to 23 and it turned out that the owner would only sell the lot if we purchased the three neighboring buildings that he also owned. Now we own 19, 23, 25 (drive and lot), 27 and 29… that’s half the block.”
Starting with 19, the house that the couple will live in, the rehab is already underway. “We dug out the basement,” Wendes said. “There will be all new plumbing, waterlines, and we’re tearing out the first floor… all of the joists and sub-floor were compromised. There will be radiant heat floors and the upstairs will be converted into two apartments. 23 will be two units – an upstairs and a downstairs. The couple has intentions of selling all the properties but 19). 27 and 29 will be converted into single-family homes with garages. The vacant lot will be a shared parking lot for the tenants… and under the lot we are hoping to incorporate slinky coil geothermal power that will heat and cool some of the apartments. We want the houses to be as ‘green’ as possible. We’re using Unilock (Buffalo company) pavers for the driveway so that the water runs into the ground and not into the street. Even the new roof shingles mimic real slate, but they are actually made from the recycled insides of automobiles (Staroba Plastic – Holland, NY).”
It was cool to hear about all of the ‘green’ products that were being used to complete the project. Some of the ideas, like the geothermal, can be expensive in the beginning yet cost effective in the long run. Other ideas just take time and effort, but are environmentally sound practices. “We’re using cork and bamboo flooring (easily renewable resources),” Wendes added. “And re-milled woods for flooring. We’re trying to retain as much as the original possible from each building. We’re recycling all of the products that don’t get Habitat Restore. Instant-on demand hot water. We’re at the cusp of three neighborhoods (Allentown, Days Park, Kleinhans)… we’ve met all of our neighbors (meet a couple of them) who are active in the community. We’re one among quite a few people who are taking on these projects. There is a real interest in this section of Buffalo. Hopefully these efforts will be enough to push this neighborhood to the next level.”