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Long-Range Planning for Central Terminal Underway

With volunteers working on several short-term restoration projects at the Central Terminal, a strategic plan is being drafted that will prioritize stabilization projects and look at how best to prepare the property for long-term use.  Time is of the essence.  By some estimates, if major roof and masonry repairs are not completed in the next few years, the building could be in serious trouble.

“We are focused on two things right now,” says Paul Lang, board member and chair of the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation’s Architectural Advisory Committee.  “We’re really ramping up to the National Trust convention in fall 2011 and expect to complete the strategic plan at about the same time.  It’s kind of a make or break 18 months for us and the building.”

railoutside[1].jpgA ‘conceptual’ master plan should be finished later this year followed by a more extensive document in time for the convention.  No one said finding uses for the sprawling, 80 year old property 1.5 miles from downtown would be easy.  High speed rail may be just one element of a reborn terminal.  The CTRC is taking one step at a time but wants to have a detailed plan as to “What’s Next?”

The master plan will include a newly adopted vision statement, strategic plan for the organization and the building, prioritization of projects for volunteers, conceptual uses of the complex, proposed phasing of uses and ultimately discussion points to move forward.

“The strategic plan is still in an infant state as far as specific program ideas,” says Lang.  “We have some overall design intentions and ideas of how to divide the building into digestible chunks for future development.”

Clock and arch.jpg“It’s not intended to be the final verdict, nor do I or anyone involved think this is the only answer, but we’ve waited long enough for the silver bullet,” says Lang.  “It’s time for us to be proactive and put our ideas out there. For example, we’re hoping to show what some improved streetscapes might look like, how offices, residential, museum or exhibit space might fit and how it can all work together. We’ll have some plans, perhaps some renderings.  Something we can have in hand to say look how this works can you help us get there, or if your idea is better we’d love to hear it.”

An updated historic structure report is being completed by architecture firm Hamilton Houston Lownie.  Of immediate importance is roof repair and stabilization of the tower masonry.  That work must be completed soon before those areas fail.  Once a cost estimate is received, funding will need to be secured. 

Structurally, the building is sound and in remarkably good shape considering the age and lack of upkeep for many years according to Lang.  He cautions that if water continues infiltrating through the poorly repaired roof, it is going to start causing issues.  One area of concern is the archways where water is running to the spring points.  If they are compromised, the archway will collapse. 

One of the biggest problems is the freeze- thaw cycles, popping joints at the parapets allowing more water to get into the wall cavities.  Brick repairs are required throughout the complex.  If not fixed, water will get behind the brick, seep into the wall cavity, and begin degrading the structural steel. 

“I and much of the board feel that if we can provide a weather-tight structure with necessary services, it’s only a matter of time before developers or property managers begin knocking on our door,” says Lang.

“Overall we’ve really been trying to professionalize and legitimize the organization and thus improve the quality of what we do,” says Lang.  “We’ve expanded the board and set up committees such as building and grounds, events, volunteer coordination, grants, and architecture.”

jilltower[1].jpgIf you think the volunteers are all senior citizens trying to bring back a piece of their past, you’re mistaken.  Many of the volunteers and board members are young professionals.  They are looking for additional support from unions and building trades to assist with the restoration work and from professionals such as accountants and lawyers to help guide the Corporation’s efforts. 

“The Architecture Committee is made up of young professional architects, landscape architects, urban planners, energy engineers, and historic specialists actually doing the grunt work,” says Lang.  “All of our bosses have offered advice or have been sounding boards when we need them which is great.”

“Marty Biniasz of Forgotten Buffalo is on board as our marketing director and we are still in search of a grant writer, since right now that’s being done by the board and we really don’t have the time or qualifications,” adds Lang.

For the Trust convention, the Corporation wants to be able to showcase the work they’ve completed with limited funds and grass root efforts.  A symposium may be held at the Terminal during the event. 

With work ramping down at the Darwin Martin House and ramping up at the Richardson Complex, some think the Central Terminal should be the region’s next big architectural save. 

“If the Terminal receives just a portion of the support given the other landmarks, it will be a functioning hub of activity not just a museum walk through piece,” says Lang.

“There is so much potential in the Broadway Fillmore area to be a cool hip green community, and believe it or not things are falling into place for that to happen,” says Lang.  “There are many others that have the same thoughts.  We’re onto something.”

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