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Primary Estates: Part 1

There is a movement taking place on the city’s West Side that we have written about over the past few years that appears to be picking up momentum. Residents are picking up more paintbrushes and hammers in order to invest into their neighborhoods. They are snagging properties dirt cheap, sometimes two or three at a time, and are changing the face of entire streets.

After posting on a colorful paint job on Ripley Place (see here) I received an email from Joe Galvin who wanted me to know that there were others who were taking similar measures on the West Side.  He told me that he picked up his first property 20 years ago and ever since, the house has been undergoing serious renovations to the interior. Recently he decided to paint the house a bright color (yellow), and before long his neighbor began to paint his own house a brighter color. “To tell you the truth, I never even took notice of the house,” he told me. “Once noticeable work was performed on the exterior of the house, others nearby began to work on their own houses, including an old barn that is now colored bright red. I’ve been working on houses on the West Side for twenty years, and the momentum is building. With the money that I saved by picking up my house at auction, I was able to blow out ceilings and built lofts, cut out walls and add windows to let more light in. I was even able to buy the house next door (at auction) as a rental property. I’m fixing up that home as if I was going to be the one living there. We do what we can with what we have and don’t ask for a handout or loan or grants. We do this for the love of the neighborhood and the excitement of change and what that change brings. We also do it to sell people, young and old, on the idea of moving here
too… with their own visions.”

Joe was kind enough to send along some
photos of the conversions, along with some wording describing what had
recently taken place on his street. Here it is – click on photos to enlarge:

“I have been
renovating a property on Massachusetts for the past twenty years.
Although I have not been working on it all that time… I have found
time to (98%) finish it and rent it to people that love living there and
in this neighborhood. I won’t go into details here about the inside but
take my word for it… it’s beautifully renovated… convenient… and
comfortable. My idea is to make a place as comfortable for a tenant as if I would live there myself. From head to toe I make the improvements first rate so they last for decades. I am also interested in changing the neighborhood in this process… and its working.


“I have convinced my neighbor on the corner to look at his own property
in a different light now that I have made mine such a (see yellow house)
statement. He has put his inside renovations on hold while improving the
outside and, again, the neighborhood (see the white house with blue

“Encouraged by the success of my first project I am now turning my efforts to a new property on Nineteenth Street… a dilapidated run down property adjacent to my first house… and this time I will not take twenty years to complete it (see blue house). Let’s just say I wasn’t prepared for this new project because I bought it from the city foreclosure auction and couldn’t know what I was getting… but I am not intimated by it either. I like to refer to my houses as ‘Primary Estates’.


“In fact, I am excited about the changes I bring to this property and the people who live nearby. A neighbor nearby renovated their carriage house garage recently… and I reclaimed the barn wood to improve my own property. This is only the outside (see red barn) and the inside is coming along nicely too. I am making changes and improvements daily. In the empty lot I own I have plans to make a sculpture garden that will come together this coming spring.”


Written by RaChaCha


RaChaCha is a Garbage Plate™ kid making his way in a Chicken Wing world. Since 2008, he's put over a hundred articles on here, and he asked us to be sure to thank you for reading. So, thank you for reading. You may also have seen his freelance byline in Artvoice, where he writes under the name his daddy gave him [Ed: Send me a check, and I might reveal what that is]. When he's not writing, RaChaCha is an urban planner, a rehabber of houses, and a community builder. He co-founded the Buffalo Mass Mob, and would love to see you at the next one. He represents Buffalo Young Preservationists on the Trico roundtable. If you try to demolish a historic building, he might have something to say about that. He is a proud AmeriCorps alum.

Things you may not know about RaChaCha (unless you read this before): "Ra Cha Cha" is a nickname of his hometown. (Didn't you know that? Do you live under a rock?) He's a political junkie (he once worked for the president of the Monroe County Legislature), but we don't really let him write about politics on here. He helped create a major greenway in the Genesee Valley, and worked on early planning for the Canalway Trail. He hopes you enjoy biking and hiking on those because that's what he put in all that work for. He was a ringleader of the legendary "Chill the Fill" campaign to save Rochester's old downtown subway tunnel. In fact, he comes from a long line of troublemakers. An ancestor fought at Bunker Hill, and a relative led the Bear Flag Revolt in California. We advise you to remember this before messing with him in the comments. He worked on planning the Rochester ARTWalk, and thinks Buffalo should have one of those, too (write your congressman).

You can also find RaChaCha (all too often, we frequently nag him) on the Twitters at @HeyRaChaCha. Which is what some people here yell when they see him on the street. You know who you are.

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