In July of 2008, the father and son team of Tom and Jason Yots started Preservation Studios, a company that redesigns and rehabilitates historic buildings. Together, the two are planning the company’s next big project: the acquisition and rehabilitation of Hook and Ladder No. 12, a decommissioned firehouse located at the corner of Amherst and Grant Street, circa 1913.
The Yots’ plan calls for the empty firehouse to undergo an interior redesign and refurbishment that will transform the building into an office and conference facility, and house both Preservation Studios and Jason’s Yots Law Firm. Eco-Logic Studios, an architecture firm that specializes in green building and energy efficiency construction, and run by the Yots’ friend and collaborator Kevin Connors, will also be moving their offices into Ladder 12. A green building supply company is negotiating with Preservation Studios to move in as well.
The new design for the building also includes a conference room which will be made available to community groups for meetings, parties, and art shows, among other things. The Yots’ have named the rehabilitation project of Ladder 12 “Preservation Exchange” because, as Jason puts it, “We hope to have preservation and sustainability-minded professionals [in the architecture industry] exchanging ideas, exchanging contacts, and exchanging resources.”
The Yots’ were drawn to this building specifically because, according to Tom, “Many of the businesses around there are like us; they’re family owned businesses, and these people are a presence in this neighborhood.”
The people involved in this project firmly believe that building preservation and environmentally conscious building go hand-in hand. As Tom noted, “I don’t know who coined the phrase, ‘The greenest building is the one that’s already built,’ because you’ve got that embedded energy that you would be squandering if the building was torn down.” He also gives other examples of how preserving historic buildings is helpful to the environment, saying, “The whole aspect of energy use tends to be focused on heating a building, but when it comes to cooling, a historical building is much easier to cool because they were built to be self-cooled. They have windows that open, they have 14-foot ceilings, they have attics that breathe, they are easy to ventilate.” With this project, Preservation Studios hopes to show how the green movement and the historic preservation movement are really about the same thing: conservation.
Both Tom and Jason have plenty of experience in projects involving historic buildings. Tom earned a Master’s degree in architecture from UB after he retired from teaching, and spent 5 years advising and assisting people in qualifying buildings for attaining grants and tax credits as historic sites. Jason is an ex-real estate and corporate lawyer, who’s work included syndicating tax credits for historic buildings. The two put their combined experience together to form Preservation Studios, which Jason calls a “one-stop shop if you want to complete a historic tax credit project,” with Tom supplying the architectural background, and Jason supplying the financial and legal knowledge. With the rehabilitation of Ladder 12, Tom and Jason are making the move from consulting people on how to refurbish and handle historic properties, to actually taking over a property themselves and completing a refurbishment project of their own design, with their own money.
As the project stands right now, Preservation Studios has put an offer into the city for purchasing the property. Jason says the city has been “very responsive” and “very cooperative.” They hope to acquire the building by the end of this year. They are then going to move their offices into Ladder 12, and then begin refurbishing the structure, floor by floor.
Another interesting aspect of this project is that Jason is going to be keeping people updated on their progress in acquiring and rehabilitating this historic structure by putting up posts on his blog. These posts will keep people informed as to what’s going on with Preservation Exchange, and will reveal “the good, the bad and the ugly of an historic rehab project in an emerging urban neighborhood.”
Jason decided to do this because he wants to help people understand “what it takes to rehabilitate a historic property. I wanted to take people through the process step by step.” He adds that “One thing I’ve never understood about the developer’s industry is that it’s so secretive; they don’t want people to know what they’re doing until they cut the ribbon, basically. We really want this to be an open forum because, for us, this is a community project as much as it is ours.”