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The day will soon come for this Dryvit hack job.

If there was ever a building that shows just how down and out Buffalo became, it’s this one. 521 Main Street is an embarrassment to the city. It shows how little we cared for historic character at one point in time. The facade hack job is an architectural joke, with its cartoonish fake windows.

Like so many other once forlorn buildings in Downtown Buffalo, the future of 521 Main Street now looks bright. The building was recently purchased by mild mannered developer Roger Trettel, who has become somewhat of a super hero when it comes to rescuing these types of architectural significant edifices.

Trettel picked up the building for $395K, which is lower than the owner’s original asking price. In the end, the new owner has got his work cut out for him – it will be interesting to see exactly what is left sitting behind the bizarre Dryvit facade.

From the listing description:
• 6,240 sq.ft.
• Four floors and basement
• 10 car parking in rear on Washington
• An outside elevator could be easily built
• Ideal for office, retail, condos or apartments
• Built in 1900

Whatever does eventually happen to this building, it is important to remember the way it looks right now, in its current state of despair. There is a story to be told, which is a reminder of just how bad things got on Main Street in Downtown Buffalo. As for Trettel, it’s the perfect size footprint for him to tackle. Past/current projects include the stunning Buehl Building and 5-7 Genesee Street (underway with Carmina).

Written by Buffalo Rising

Buffalo Rising

Sometimes the authors at Buffalo Rising work on collaborative efforts in order to cover various events and stories. These posts can not be attributed to one single author, as it is a combined effort. Often times a formation of a post gets started by one writer and passed along to one or more writers before completion. At times there are author attributions at the end of one of these posts. Other times, “Buffalo Rising” is simply offered up as the creator of the article. In either case, the writing is original to Buffalo Rising.

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  • Billybobn

    Is this the same building that has a “SIGNS” sign in this photo?

    • wcperspective


    • breckenridge

      Yes, that’s it. It looks like the building to the left had the top floor/cornice removed at some point, as the rest of the windows and details align. This block is really turning around, hopefully that momentum will carry to the block to the south, the one most in need of work.

    • benfranklin

      I’d say yes. One positive of the dryvit is that it protected whatever was underneath it. The most profitable renovations I’ve been apart of were the pleasant surprises found over some covering (be it exterior like this, flooring, or hidden pocket doors).

    • rubagreta

      For those who romanticize old Buffalo, it looks really really crappy in that photo thanks to pollution from steel mills and other sources. You can understand why there was a modernization craze in the 1950’s.

  • BfloGal

    I will be very excited to see that dryvit go, however at least the previous owners had the pedestrian level storefront occupied! What about Sandoro’s building that still sits vacant?! He thought the window clings advertising his museum would made it look better? It’s still empty!

    • mikmo323

      Which building is that?

      • BfloGal

        529 Main Street

        • mikmo323

          That guy owns so much of DT/near east side and has done nothing with any of the properties. Its crazy…

    • BuffaloOnTheRise

      I casually know Jim Sandoro through some minor business dealings over the years and he is a very nice and pro-Buffalo resident. When the city was declining he was one of the few to grab properties and stabilize/save them (and live in an area not known for residents). He would clean them up, make sure they are solid, sell parking spaces and in many cases use them for storage for his businesses or Pierce Arrow Museum. The problem now is that he owns a lot of properties, but in general is not interested in developing them and unfortunately doesn’t seem to be motivated. If he was younger maybe, but at this point I would guess he doesn’t want the headaches of being a developer and isn’t motivated by the profit of selling.

      • BfloGal

        I know you are correct, as I know Jim a little as well. I’m not sure anyone is going to be able to offer him the amount he thinks he deserves and by leaving it vacant it’s just going to keep deteriorating and what good is that to the City?

  • Vandra

    I remember in the 1980s before the dryvit this building had some kind of panelized covering with scars of removed retail signage, very 1950’s. It was horrible. This was a cheap effort to cover that, but it’s been at least 25 years.

    I found this image online. It had the big letters spelling KAY near the left of the shot:

    • Josh Robinson

      Wow, what happened to that lovely “Century” marquee and sign? Is that building still standing?

      • wcperspective

        No- demolished in 80s or so and is still vacant. It was the connector to the Century Theater that was on the surface parking lot at the corner of Mohawk and Washington.

        This would have been a great project that Rocco proposed in 2007:

        • mikmo323

          What happened to the project? why didn’t it proceed?

          • wcperspective

            IIRC he couldn’t acquire all of the properties.

      • 300miles

        The building was torn down. The side facing main street is just an unused gravel alley. The back side is the surface parking lot on the corner of Washington and Mohawk.

      • Vandra

        The Century sign from the very front was reused for the Century Grill on Pearl. I’m sure the rest of the marquee is long gone.

      • Michael Jarosz

        As a kid we often went to the Century. Like Shea’s and the Paramount, it was an over the top rococo movie place. What impressed me as a kid was the way you entered the balcony from one side. high above the orchestra seats and underneath a huge hovering dome. It scared the daylights out of me.
        Dryvit is the bandage applied to a building after a major amputation. At SOM we were not allowed to use it. Ever. On anything.

  • Mr. B

    “If there was ever a building that shows just how down and out Buffalo
    became, it’s this one. 521 Main Street is an embarrassment to the city.”

    Well — if a building having dryvit is the biggest problem Buffalo has, I’d say that’s pretty good . . .


    • eagercolin

      Exactly. There are factories that once employed thousands of people and currently sit empty, but some tacky little building supposedly tells the tale of Buffalo’s decline.

  • Alex

    There is dryvit on three of the buildings in the photo, but this is the worst one.

    Does anyone know if the windows are blacked out/ covered or is it just the way they appear in the photo?

    • WebbyDagner

      The trio of 3-part windows are just applied surface materials, not actual windows.

  • Michael DiPasquale

    Let’s be happy that the building wasn’t demolished. When we stop seeing buildings demolished then we can talk about how “bad things used to be”.

  • Dan

    Vat is problem vit bilding? Is clean. Is modern.

  • G Orty

    What an inflammatory, grade-school slam piece! Are you getting paid by the new owner? And just what makes him a “mild mannered” (sic) “super hero”? There are countless other buildings in Buffalo that more clearly display “just how down and out Buffalo became.” Please stop trying to revise history by erasing architectural styles you disagree with. The fact that this isn’t clad in the same romantic neo-classical style as the other nearby buildings that didn’t get any maintenance attention in the twentieth century doesn’t give you permission to call this one out as evil. This post even admits you have no idea what’s behind the existing facade material. It’s clean, its in good shape, and it actually represents a relative level of prosperity in the care for the building’s facade, especially compared with the neglected and crumbling stained relics that BRO cherishes. EIFS isn’t a premium material by any developed-world standard, but it’s effective and durable. Crawl out of your self-righteous hole and try to see things in something other than a narrow, dim, pessimistic light. (Oops, we almost forgot to mention Carmina)