During the past week, BRO readers have been inquiring as to what the plans are for 500 Franklin Street. A structure that once housed Mundo Images (and Artvoice before that) was demolished, leaving behind what many are considering an opportunity to build something that reflects the inherent beauty of the street. What led to the demo was a fire that broke out while Mundo still occupied the space. It was determined that the one-story building was not worth saving, although a warehouse and an attached house both remain standing to this day (both nicer brick structures).
500 Franklin Street was picked up by Matt Moscati of TRM Architecture approximately three years ago. Neighbors say he is planning to build upwards of a dozen residential units at the site, which could now include building a commercial component where this building once stood. As for the building that was demolished, previous occupants that I talked to felt that the space had plenty of detrimental issues, not to mention that it was not historically significant to begin with.
This end of Franklin Street has seen its fair share of urban flaws. There are a series of over-sized parking lots that break up the street, where historic structures once stood. Other issues include a notorious rooming house that continues to attract unwanted attention. Recently Sinatra purchased an abandoned historic structure a few doors from Mundo, which he states will be fixed up as early as this winter. Any time we are offered the chance to create better urban density on Franklin, between North and Allen, it’s a welcome opportunity. Hopefully we will see something built that reflects the nature of the neighborhood. In my opinion, the building that recently stood at 500 Franklin did not add value to the street, and leaves a great opportunity in its wake.
Although the legally demoed “ugly cinder-block building” (circa 1950, built for Ziegler Pharmaceutical Company) was no loss to the neighborhood, there is an interesting architectural component behind it.
The more intriguing aspect is that behind the storefront was a gabled brick house and another older, commercial structure. A nearby resident did some research on the structure and discovered that it is the last vestige of one of Buffalo’s oldest breweries, or as it was known at the time, malt house. This was documented in a history of Buffalo’s breweries, written in 1901. The brewery was located on the corner of Allen and Franklin, where a 20th century commercial building now exists. The brick house at 500 Franklin was part of the complex and was constructed between 1855 and 1858 by the malt house owner, Joseph D. Roberts.
In the 2012 expanded Allentown district nomination, Martin Wachadlo described it as follows:
500 Franklin Street – Commercial. c.1860. Brick. 2½-story flat roof, 3-bay. Gable roof removed from front section, intact on rear section. Storefront addition. c.1950. Concrete block. 1-story, flat roof.
With the loss of 23 North Street and the demolition of 500 Franklin, some Allentown residents fear the demolition trend could gain steam. For the first time in decades, the land on the eastern end of Allentown is worth a lot of money, perhaps more than the buildings on it. It makes the existing structures vulnerable. Causing additional concern for Allentown residents, the new plan for Allen Street is likely to remove a significant amount of on-street parking spaces putting more pressure to demo buildings for parking.
Stay vigilant folks.
Demo pictures by RhaChaCha.