There are big plans for a small building downtown. P22 owners Richard Kegler and wife Carima El-Behairy bought the Slotkin Building at the southwest corner of E. Mohawk and Washington streets on Friday. The building, purchased for $245,000, will be used for the incubation of several different organizations, primarily as a working printing museum- the Western New York Book Arts Collaborative, a small book store, a carry-out cafe, offices and a conference facility.
The new owners plan to start converting the property immediately. Their plan is to publicly unveil the gallery space at the TypeCon conference in mid-July.
P22 will not be in the building. Richard and Carima bought the building and the Collaborative will be occupying the space rent-free until they are up and running.
“Carima has the vision and reuse plan,” says Richard. According to Carima, the reuse will be “a little different than what is currently downtown.”
Redevelopment plans for the “WNY Books Arts Center” include a museum showcasing Buffalo’s extensive print industry history in the basement, a small bookstore and gallery space on the first floor, and offices and a multi-media conference center/banquet facility on the second floor. A well-known restaurant is going to operate a take-out only cafe and will be booking the banquet hall upstairs which is 31′ x 39′, enough space for up to 100 people.
“Its only 5,000 square feet,” says Carima, “but it may be a pivotal point in the neighborhood if all goes to plan.”
Richard Kegler helped start the WNY Book Arts Collaborative, formed to promote, encourage and develop the Printing Arts through education and access for individual artists and underserved communities. The Collaborative will use the Slotkin for gallery displays, lectures, seminars and workshops.
“We will be working with organizations to promote books and programs,” says Carima. “We’ll be doing outreach to schools and have been in contact with the Rare Book Room at the Central Library and nearby Old Editions bookshop.”
A museum showcasing Buffalo’s rich print industry history is planned similar to those found in Seattle, Boston, Minneapolis, and San Francisco. Furniture, seven presses and other material will be on display.
“There’s a tremendous amount of print history here,” says Carima. “Right now we do not have the room to save it. Some owners have sold the equipment for scrap. We have had to turn away so much.”
Working with City Hall, they have obtained the original 1922 building blueprints. Restoration plans are being drawn up by architect John Wingfelder.
Says Carima, “We have to decide what we want to go back to.” The original second floor windows will be retained. The white panels on the building will be removed and cast iron columns will be exposed. Glazed brick at the base of the building is not original.
The building was originally occupied by the BonTon Millinery, a hat company, and then Slotkin, a dress company. At one point it was owned by Hengerer’s Department Store which was located to the south of the property. The building was most recently occupied by the Jewish Review.
Carima and Richard will be using the TypeCon conference being held July 15-20 as a vehicle to unveil the project. The conference is expected to draw 400-500 attendees to the Hyatt and other regional venues.
“We have speakers and attendees already booked from Germany, Sweden, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, England and Alaska,” says Carima.
Carima and Richard are excited about the Slotkin building, located in an area of downtown seeing increased investment.
”It is shaping up to be a really interesting project and multi-facetted. In the grand scheme of things it is a drop in the bucket,” says Carima, “but it is all those drops that count.”