In the race to mediocrity, Buffalo is determined to win. Another valuable piece of urban fabric and irreplaceable historic heritage has been reduced to landfill in an effort to further build the city’s credentials as a top contender in this contest. Endowed as it is with such a spectacular wealth of historic buildings of unusual quality and richness, Buffalo started this race with a major handicap. But, this has not deterred those who will not relent in making sure Buffalo is once and for all crowned champion of placeless places.
Until last week, the little building at the corner of Coe Place and Main Street held the fabric of this block intact. The brick building consisted of a two-story storefront with a back wing which was likely a house that was added on to. It is gone now and this recently block-long contiguous row of buildings now has a giant missing front tooth. One more bothersome historic building down. Only a few thousand left to go! In the meantime, historic and quaint Coe Place has seen several buildings renovated since Artspace moved in (including the almost demolished Hamilton Ward house). Oh well, guess we are stuck with those for a while.
The demolished property is owned by Artspace. They purchased the building when the Artspace project was under construction in the adjoining building a few years ago. At that time the corner building had no windows and crumbling masonry at the rear and also needed a new roof. There were no definitive plans for the building but Artspace was looking for entrepreneurs with ideas on how to reuse the property.
Reports are that Artspace put a new roof on the building to the tune of more than $100,000 shortly after purchase. No other improvements since were apparent since that investment.
According to a May 2010 report by Tredo Engineers submitted to the Preservation Board, the “existing structure’s condition was irreparable.” The engineering firm first inspected the structure in October 2008 and in less than two years, the north wall had “noticeably and significantly diminished.” An attempt to repair the masonry bearing walls in early 2009 was unsuccessful. The wall’s condition was so poor that “any attempt to follow the proposed repair details would collapse the wall and that the only option for repair at that point was the complete removal and reconstruction of the wall.”
A large horizontal crack developed and the lower portion of the wall had shifted into the building approximately one inch. Furthermore, the first floor joints along the wall had deteriorated due to water infiltration and the east wall was showing signs of mortar loss due to roof water cascading down the face of the wall. Stabilization of the structure would have required that at least 50 percent of the first floor and 75 percent of the north wall would have to be removed and replaced as well as repair to a substantial portion of the east wall. Tredo concluded that “permanent repair of this building was no longer a viable option.” The Buffalo Preservation Board signed-off on the demolition.
Sources say that Artspace possibly decided not to continue investing in the building in order to provide additional parking for its building. A group from the Buffalo Expat Network was recently attempting to put in place a deal to restore the building and had offered up $10,000 in stabilization money until talks stalled.
Is Buffalo doomed to be a city with a few pretty buildings surrounded by parking? If that is the case then this block is ripe for more parking at the other end. At the north end of the block the U.S. Post Office occupies a long, low commercial building which at their request had most of its storefront windows filled in with concrete blocks over 20 years ago. You would have to agree that concrete block storefronts are a nice touch. They even splurged on some mauve paint for the bunker windows. Just a few years ago as Artspace came along there were some rumblings that the Post Office wanted out of this site. If they do leave you can just see the vultures licking their beaks. Mmmmmm- PARKING.
Let’s give Artspace the benefit of the doubt though. They promoted their loft project as a way to rebuild city neighborhoods and on that basis received substantial government funding. They never talk about adding parking as a way to rebuild cities so maybe we are just being cynical. Perhaps they are planning on putting up a new building on this corner? Yes, that must be the plan.
Sarcasm aside, if you are interested in getting more involved in the preservation of Buffalo’s precious and irreplaceable architectural heritage please check out the Preservation Ready Facebook page where we can hook you up with some preservation initiatives including an exciting opportunity to get in on the ground floor planning for a ‘young preservationists’ group in Buffalo.
Second image by David Torke at Fix Buffalo