There’s nothing worse that seeing a church or a synagogue crumble to the ground. Or get intentionally demolished for that matter. In Buffalo we have been fortunate to see some excellent adaptive reuse scenarios when it comes to our abundance of abandoned churches. Think Lafayette Church (see here), Babeville and the Richmond-Ferry church which is currently underway (see here). On the flip side, we recently lost St. Mary’s on the Hill and a synagogue on Jefferson. This were both heavy blows to the West Side and the East Side of this city.
In order to salvage the remaining churches that are in jeopardy to this day (we can all think of a few), we must begin to rethink the possibilities, and the opportunities, when it comes to reusing these magnificent structures. The NYTimes has spotlighted a number of churches in Pittsburgh that have seen incredible conversions to breweries, concert halls, hotels, bars and brew pubs. After all, when it comes to iconic architecture, you just can’t go out and construct something that can hold a candle to these types of buildings. In Pittsburgh, there appears to be a cadre of developers, investors and entrepreneurs who have not only snatched up a good quantity of the abandoned churches, they are intent on creating incredible destinations in the process. And these destinations are helping to stabilize neighborhoods and the city.
Calling all Buffalo developers and entrepreneurs… please take another look at our stock of abandoned churches, and think about building neighborhoods around the investments. Don’t let the demolition crews run this city, or they will run it into the ground.
Saint Mary’s on the Hill could have been a community anchor. Instead it is a D’Youville parking lot thanks to the buffoonery of local politicians. Stop the insanity and look at the longterm possibilities, not the short term gains of demolition companies and other parasitic special interest groups. Read the NYTimes article, and rethink what our churches are capable of.
Lead image: The Church Brew Works, a brewpub within the restored St. John the Baptist Church. Credit Jeff Swensen for The New York Times