The big question that a lot of preservationists have on their minds this week is, “Moving forward, how do we become proactive when it comes to saving at-risk architecture, while safeguarding buildings that might eventually end up in the at-risk category.” We’re talking about buildings owned by The City, The State, out-of-towners and property owners in our own backyard.
Some people feel as if the preservation groups are fragmented, and should pool resources. Others feel that the missions of the groups don’t mesh, and that there would be inner turmoil that could actually dilute the existing groups. There is an idea being bandied about that would seek to establish an alliance of preservationists, developers, citizen watchdogs, and concerned officials… a group that would come together at a summit to brainstorm ideas and deliver concrete resolutions. Questions need to be answered regarding what is working, what is not working, what is best practice as seen in other cities, is there a timeline for a structure, are there moneys available to mothball and then develop, who owns the buildings, how do you get them into the right hands at the right time, what is the process?
Buffalo may not have the resources that other cities have. That doesn’t mean that we should stand by and watch our infrastructure crumble. The lead on this should come from the top. Unfortunately that is not going to happen any time soon. As a city, we understand how valuable our historic buildings are. Architecture is an industry… we get it. At the same time, preserving architecture is not a political platform like jobs and schools. In a day and age when the building of a Family Dollar Store gets more attention than the demolition of a historic brick structure in the old First Ward, we have a problem on our hands. How do we solve that problem?
There are some who feel that progressive people and groups are waiting in the wings to see the right initiative established. There are others who say that until preservation is profitable for developers, nothing will happen. Where will the money come from to supplement potential losses? What developers have the expertise and desire to get involved? There are developers in Buffalo that have done tremendous historic preservation work as of late. What kind of a building is appealing, what part of the city, how big, and why? How much time do we have to figure out a plan?