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What’s Next On The List?

“You can’t save everything.” I hear that quote a lot whenever the subject of preservation comes up. And I agree with the statement. I wasn’t heartbroken to see Freddy’s Donuts come down. I always thought that it would be cool to see a retro eatery open there, but losing the building (to me) wasn’t such a big deal. My concern is that the shovel-ready site does not become a parking lot.

Now that we have that out of the way, I would like to make a plea to The City to try to save some of the more important building stock by becoming more proactive rather than retroactive. The hardest to save buildings are the ones that have suffered demolition by neglect tactics at the hands of uncaring owners. I often wonder why one would ever want to own a beautiful historic building if he or she is just going to let it rot until one day The City makes the person tear it down.

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It breaks my heart to see so much of our urban fabric subjected to the ill will of unscrupulous property owners. Time and time again we have seen the horrific outcome when owners are not held accountable for their disregard for the community. We all know that once a roof suffers water damage and exposes the rest of the structure to the elements, it’s hard to reverse the action – especially when the utilities are turned off and a winter sets in. McBride’s, Falcon, Summit, White’s Livery, Saint Mary’s… do any of these ring a bell? They should. These are not faded memories, they are recent scars. But what about the structures that are in the process of suffering similar fates? What are the telltale signs? Who is safeguarding our building stock?

When we look out of our office building in the Cobblestone District, we see roofs with marshes growing on them (near the corner of South Park and Illinois). And yes, even sapling trees. We also see activity in and around the buildings and wonder if anyone really knows what is going on… what they are doing… or not doing, as the case may be. Here we have a district on the rise, yet much of the potential was razed already. That means that we’re stuck with way too many parking lots. Does that mean that we need more? By the time The City gets to many of these buildings, it’s too late and we are left scratching our heads while the terms ‘shovel-ready’ and ‘therapeutic demolition’ are bandied about.

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People have often asked why we are not enforcing property codes the way we enforce parking tickets. Probably because it can be too time consuming and costly to go after the building owners. It’s easy to boot a car that racks up too many tickets – how do you boot an absentee owner? Unfortunately, many of the buildings that are in jeopardy don’t have the one precious thing that they need… time. While The City has expressed an interest in updating the outdated codes, we are left with deteriorating structures that are irreplaceable. Some people call our Cobblestone District the Distillery District (Toronto) of Buffalo. Now that we have millions and millions of dollars being pumped into the Inner Harbor, we can’t just sit around and watch even one more building deteriorate. At a time when Sam Savarino and Roger Trettel are investing, we must help to protect their investments by holding building owners responsible for shoring up the building stock that will one day make the district a district, not just one street.

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This is just one of the rebounding districts that we must start paying attention to. It’s also the first in a series of key districts that will be covered in coming weeks. And yes, this is the second part of the series ‘Trees Grow In The Darndest of Places’.

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