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The Red Mark of Death

The 19th
century building at center in this picture is likely nearing its end.
 It has been painted with what David Torke at Fix Buffalo likes to call
the “red mark of death”.  He notes that the city paints these
marks on buildings that it intends to tear down in the near future.  So
here we have just another crappy old building, that no one wants, ready to be
hauled off to a landfill.  Many will say get rid of it, the faster the
better.  Maybe they are right but what if they are not?  This
building is an increasingly rare example of the typical commercial buildings
that once lined Buffalo’s streets, numbering in the thousands.  

Is
elimination of the city’s history the best path to rebuilding? Many say
yes. Does the city have a plan for what buildings get demolished and which
get saved?  Is there a strategy for identifying historic buildings that
might be important assets in efforts to form new neighborhoods in the wake of
the massive destruction of more than 60 years of disinvestment?  To many,
this Near East Side strip of Genesee Street is out of sight, out of mind.  

It is a
place most never venture to, mainly because it is on the East Side. That would
be bad enough but, even worse, this building falls on the wrong side of the suburban
auto centric barriers of the Kensington off ramps to the north and the Elm Oak
Arterial to the west.  With these impediments in place, it is easy to
devalue a run down building such as this and the Near East Side neighborhood it
inhabits.  But take just a few minutes studying this area and you can see
the tremendous potential and importance of this neighborhood and this building
to the city’s future.

First, this
building sits just 4 short blocks from the Genesee Gateway Project.  That
quickly moving restoration project is bringing life back to a row of formerly
dilapidated buildings similar to this one–buildings that just a few years ago
faced a similar fate as well. Several other recent projects have transformed
that downtown edge into an up-and-coming part of the city.  311 Genesee is
also about the same short distance from the recently announced location for the
massive University of Buffalo Medical School relocation and expansion. 311
Genesee is set in a strip of city street that has had many buildings removed
but still has many great examples of historic urban 19th century architecture
remaining.  

With
planning and forward thinking, which uses these valuable and irreplaceable
buildings, a compelling urban streetscape could be reborn in this area.  
But this will not be possible if these buildings continue to be removed year
after year.  Bit by bit, the city loses its unique history and character
in favor of bland suburbanism and emptiness.  Buffalo cannot compete with
the suburbs on suburban terms.  If that is the plan the city is doomed to
continued failure.  This is one old, forlorn building.  It is not a
landmark.  It is not a masterpiece.  It is simply the kind of
indigenous historic building that can help rebuild a unique city neighborhood
that can attract the kind of people that cities thrive on.  Surround
downtown with successful neighborhoods and you will create a thriving downtown.
 This is where you start, with this little building. 

Check out this
short Google slideshow
 of nearby buildings on Genesee (sorry no music with this
one).  Tell me you can’t see a great street here waiting to be made.  Or,
we could make some more parking.

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