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Possession is Nine Tenths

Here’s another example of squandered potential on Grant Street. On the heels of the National Trust for Historic Preservation naming Buffalo one of the 2009 Dozen Distinctive Destinations (see post), isn’t it time that we start to pry at-risk buildings out of the hands of neglectful property owners? One reason that Buffalo was awarded the honorable distinction was because of our commitment to our urban fabric. How can we continue to tout these national designations while at the same time we allow much of our building stock to deteriorate? And don’t tell me that The City can’t handle the overload of properties it already owns. Get the buildings into public auction (and fine the owners until they’re there), then let developers pick them up at reasonable prices in order to renovate them. Last week we took a look at the D&K Building across the street (see post), and now here we have a building that’s state of disrepair is a complete mystery.

I have heard that this property might be for sale for the amount of $250,000, but there’s no way to know since it’s not listed and there are no ‘For Sale’ signs on the windows (if you look close you can actually see that there are a couple of windows on the lower right). Believe it or not, behind those windows is an operational doctor’s office. He’s also the owner of the building and obviously has no desire (or incentive from The City) to do anything other than let the structure lay mostly dormant and rot.

Once again, the really sad part of this whole story is the missed opportunity for Grant Street. And you can’t tell me that there’s not an investor waiting in the wings who could remedy the situation if the price was right. But the price isn’t right. It’s too high for anyone who is willing to throw some money at the property. How do you get the price to come down? You hold the property owner’s feet to the flames. Nobody wants to hold on to a building when the fines start to roll in. That’s when a property owner must look at the building and wonder how much he or she is willing to spend to fix it up, or maybe it’s not worth it and the priority shifts to unloading it. That will never happen if there is no pressure applied.

Can you imagine what this building would look like if the boards were taken out and replaced with glass? The old entranceways are wonderful. The design of the building is classy. The importance of not losing another architectural anchor on Grant is… well… too important. And unlike the D&K building, this one has not been properly mothballed (maybe because there is an actual owner/tenant inside) and it looks like it’s heading for the perfect demolition by neglect scenario.

Here we are again. Looking at a building that should be a building block for the street. It should serve as an anchor in the community. How did it get this way and what’s The City doing about it? Why would you even want to own a building like this just to have it fall apart around you? What possesses a person to think about only themselves and his or her holdings and not the impact that the apparent neglect has on a block… in the neighborhood… in a district… in a city? It’s painful to watch property owners taking advantage of a community. Where are the SmartCodes? How can we help Grant Street investors like Prish Moran strengthen their investments? The frustration of the scenario prompted me to email Bob Franke (pronounced Fronk-ay), President of the Grant-Ferry Association, who sounded as ‘miffed’ as I when I questioned him about this troublesome eyesore.

How long has the doctor owned the building and what shape is it in?

Not sure. As long as I’ve been aware of the building, to be sure.

Has it been cited for code violations? For what? What should it be cited for?

Yes, mainly graffiti. It should be sited for unsafe conditions in the back (the wooden stairs, etc.) trash accumulation, peeling paint, warped boards, etc. I’m sure an interior inspection would reveal more problems.

Has it gone to housing court? What’s the best course of action to take for this building?

No. It should go to court and be subject to fines that would be forgiven if sold to a new owner acceptable to the community.

How important is it to the urban fabric of the street? What do you envision should take place?

The building is vital to the urban fabric of the street. Its condition prevents rehabilitation and revitalization of this area of the district. Ideally, the four storefronts should be restored and the four upstairs units rehabbed as offices or apartments. It would be a perfect building for the “retail business incubator” we envision.

I can say that as long as the City is content to overlook the building’s problems, and the Doctor continues to ignore any sense of responsibility to the community, we won’t be able to help the district fully realize its potential.

How can we get these properties out of landlord hands when they apparently have no interest in keeping them up and become a blight on the street?

This may be a taxation issue. It’s not all that must different from taxing surface parking lots at such a low rate. This building is assessed at only $50,000, meaning his property tax is a mere $1,638.21 ($136.52 per month). Consider what he’d have to pay in rent for space similar to that he now occupies. Maybe commercial buildings have to be taxed based on best use and rentable square footage. I don’t have the answer, but we need discussion on this matter to be considered a priority if we hope to see change in our lifetimes.

What would you ask City Hall to do to help? Can they help? What’s the address? Is the property listed?

Just enforce their own laws and consider being more creative. It’s pretty clear that the wooden stairs, etc on the back are unsafe and a hazard to the community. There is plenty of peeling paint and many of the boards are warping. I’m guessing the roof is a disaster. I’d like to know if it has a certificate of occupancy.

The address is 65 Grant Street. It’s not listed for sale, though I’m told the price is usually around $250K.

Is it a code violation to just board up a building like that?

Honestly, I can’t say. It may be an issue related to certificate of occupancy. The code is not clear. It is, however, a condition that compromises that health, safety and welfare of the community. Perhaps if the building is viewed in those terms, enforcement action is possible.

Is it a code violation to have brickwork in such disrepair?

Yes.

Why do you think someone would just let a building like this go?

I cannot pretend to look into the psyche of Dr. Paik, but my guess is that he has little or no sense of being part of a community and having the responsibility that goes with that. He might find such a structure intolerable in East Amherst (where he lives), but here it is just another eyesore that helps create an atmosphere of decline and despair. Maybe that’s good for his business in the same way that it forms fertile ground for drug dealers.

Remember, Dr. Paik is able to operate his business with extremely low overhead. The building will not fetch much based on its condition (which continues to decline and erode its value), so it probably makes bottom line sense to keep doing what he’s doing. At the point he retires and closes his practice, perhaps he will sell the building for whatever he can fetch. I could not say. 

Written by queenseyes

queenseyes

Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside, Buffalo Porchfest, and Paint vs. Paint. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market on Elmwood. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at Statler City, the Hertel Alley Street Art Festival, and The Flutterby Festival.

Contact Newell Nussbaumer | Newell@BuffaloRising.com

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