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Missed Opportunity @ 794 Potomac?

Buffalo is missing out on a big opportunity on Potomac Avenue. Neighbors and members of the preservation community are pushing for Historic Landmark Status for a farmhouse that sits on the 794 Potomac lot, in front of an old auto repair shop. The Preservation Board voted unanimously to approve an application for historic status for the farmhouse. Next, the application will head to Common Council.

Generally I’m all for preservation, but there are times that a development project should trump preservation efforts. I am of the belief that the neighborhood would greatly benefit from the Frizlen project. When I think of all of the potential condo owners that are going to be missing out on living in this wonderful neighborhood, it makes me sad. In my own neighborhood I have an apartment building that is about the same size as the proposed development, and I can’t imagine not having it around. The apartment building sits on Bryant, mid-block between Ashland and Norwood. The building is comprised of rental units, and residents who add to the vitality of the neighborhood. They don’t speed down the street, they aren’t noisy, and they contribute to what I feel is a healthy urban environment.


On Potomac, the residents would be property owners, which means that they would have the utmost respect for the neighborhood. The underground parking would mean that there would be little added parking congestion on the street. And most of all, an underitilized parcel would become a vital place full of people who want to live close to Elmwood. I never thought about “the traffic, and the congestion, and the speeding cars, brought about by unfamiliar people living in these units”, because to me this was positive change, not a frightening development.

I can understand that Frizlen’s first proposal of 26 condo units was too many for some neighbors. Instead of going back and forth with Frizlen on size, the preservation route was taken. Unfortunately, the barn that was once behind the farmhouse was lost to a fire. Now it’s a pseudo-abandoned mechanic’s garage. The mechanic lives in the farmhouse.


If the farmhouse does get historic designation, what will become of it? The house has been off the radar for years. I wonder what would have happened if Frizlen did not draw attention to this underutilized and forsaken parcel? The house may have eventually bitten the dust anyways, leaving a real wreck in its wake.


Earlier today I walked around the property and took a look at what was there, and then envisioned the potential. If the house is saved from demolition, and someone, someday, deals with resurrecting the entire property, it will be a good day. But in my mind, there could have been a much better day for the city.


The historic nature of the farmhouse never crossed anyone’s mind until a developer took a look at the property and proposed condo units. Once again, I thought Frizlen did a nice job creating something that would have added to the neighborhood and to the city. In a day and age when so many people want to live in and around the Elmwood Village (especially in condos), I feel that we are missing a huge opportunity.

Frizlen is willing to scale down the development, but no one is willing to listen. This is not about historic preservation. It’s about not wanting to see this condo project come to fruition. Now who is going to pay the $750K asking price that the owner wants? And what sort of project would warrant that purchase price other than an apartment/condo complex? In the meantime, this house will sit just like it is. The owner is looking to sell the property and retire. He’s not going to fix it up – he’s going to sit on it.

Apparently it’s a victorious day for preservation because no one showed up at the Preservation Board Hearing in favor of the condos. As with a number of other projects that get halted, only the people who are against projects tend to take the time to show up at these types of hearings. It doesn’t mean that people don’t support it. It merely means that they don’t have an issue with it, so why attend a meeting? We see this over and over – people armed with signatures, fighting against growth that should be considered healthy for a street, not the other way around.


Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside, Buffalo Porchfest, and Paint vs. Paint. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market on Elmwood. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at Statler City, the Hertel Alley Street Art Festival, and The Flutterby Festival.

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