Recent news of Benderson’s plans to do away with the North Park Branch Library at the corner of Hertel and Delaware has created a lot of turmoil in the community. A number of urbanists and preservationists are concerned that the project is being rammed through, without properly being vetted. That is a legitimate concern, considering that this is a crucial corner within a highly trafficked North Buffalo commercial district. All of the other corners of this intersection are examples of what not to do in vibrant urban settings – whatever design and architectural character that was ever there has been forsaken. Now a faction of the community wants to ensure that Benderson is doing the right thing on the last remaining respectable corner.
Dana Saylor, an urban activist who has been watching the development unfold says, “I have been consulting pro bono with the North Buffalo Organization for the last year, and I am disappointed that Benderson is being allowed to move forward with this plan. Though they’ve altered the design somewhat, there’s a reason the phrase “They don’t build them like they used to” exists. There are few examples of new buildings (especially by Benderson) that are of high quality or great design. The North Park branch Library should be retained and adaptively reused and the City of Buffalo shouldn’t capitulate to every developer that wants to build another vinyl box. Not every member of North Buffalo Org agrees with me on this – some are more concerned about good urbanism than historic preservation, but I argue that we could have both, if only the City and constituents pushed for it.”
Often times in Buffalo we see projects pushed through for the sake of progress. I would think that many would agree with Saylor that we need to ensure that there is a balance when it comes to having good urbanism and historic preservation – or at least a fighting chance to create a development at this corner that we can be proud of instead of simply watching the only decent corner get washed away in the name of “progress”.
I reached out to Patricia DiFrancesco Banning, board member of North Buffalo Organization, who tells me that she is also concerned for this corner, and feels that there is missing due process. “As far as I am aware, Benderson has yet to reach out to the community, the North Buffalo Organization (NBO) or the Hertel Business Association (HBA) for input,” states Banning. “NBO and HBA being two of the largest community and business organizations in North Buffalo. My hopes were (are) to retain the green space and repurpose the building. The community should request a meeting with Benderson in hopes that they will listen to and honor their concerns as well as allow for input.”