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Wrecking Buffalo: Demo Proposed for 15 Allen

Updated with Property Owner Justification

The ‘hole’ at the northwest corner of Allen and Main streets could get a bit deeper. Mayflower Allen Property LLC is seeking Preservation Board approval to demolish 15 Allen Street. The two-story building is located adjacent to a ‘green space’ created by a demolition in the 1980s and is located within the Allentown Historic Preservation District.

Huamei Wang’s Mayflower Allen Property LLC purchased 15 Allen and adjacent 19 Allen in 2016 for $62,000 and $128,500 respectively.

Siracuse Engineers PC has concluded the building is not structurally sound:


Working with the owner, Adam Sokol, AIA created a redevelopment plan for the site but the design was rejected by the National Park Service:

Given the very significant expenses for abatement, shoring, and selective
demolition, it was the owner’s judgment that, even with tax credits, the project
was not economically viable without adding additional space to offset the
development costs.

We developed a design that would have fully restored the existing facade, while
adding a third story that was minimally visible from the street, and consistent
with the history of both this individual structure as well as the Allentown
historic district in general. Our proposal was created in consultation with the
New York State Historic Preservation Office and had the full support of its
director, Julian Adams. Unfortunately, our Part II application was rejected last
summer by the National Park Service. Although the Secretary of the Interior’s
Standards do not prohibit additions to historic structures, the NPS nonetheless
cited a “Technical Preservation Standard” which arbitrarily proscribed additions
to buildings with fewer than four stories. Having few options remaining, we
appealed this decision, with the support of both the owner as well as Mr.
Adams, eventually attending a hearing which took place in Washington, DC at
the headquarters of the National Park Service. Although the individuals
officiating at this hearing seemed sympathetic to the particular circumstances of
this project, the development pressures facing such projects in Allentown, the
costs of preservation, etc., they nonetheless surprised us, and Mr. Adams, with a
second rejection.

This unfortunate course of events has led to the present application for
demolition, as there sadly appears to be no other viable path forward for this
property at this point. The denial by the NPS, in spite of strong support by the
local SHPO, will have the effect of damaging a National Historic District and is
a rebuke to both our firm and the owner of the property, who, at a considerable
investment of time and resources, attempted to support what would have been a
sensitive rehabilitation of a historic structure.

There is potentially good news.  Sokol goes on to say a new structure is planned:

At this point, following demolition, the owner intends to construct a structure
of similar size and use on the property. We anticipate that the approvals process
for this new structure will begin in the first quarter of 2017.

It will be a demolition derby at the Preservation Board meeting on January 12. Besides the Allen Street application, the Board will consider demolitions in the Hamlin Park Historic District: 33 Brunswick Boulevard, 1491 Jefferson Avenue and 289 Northland Avenue. Also on the agenda is Ciminelli Real Estate Corporation is also asking for permission to demolish 721 Ashland, 1006-1028 Elmwood Avenue, 583 and 584 Potomac Avenue, and partial demolition of 976 and 982 Elmwood to prepare for its two-building, mixed-use project.

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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  • Tim H

    So, what’s the reason for the demolition? It wouldn’t make sense to purchase the property on Allen for a collective $190k, pay another $25k for a demo, and then just sit on the land.

    What’s the other part of the equation look like? Are there plans to build something else in this location?

    • Mike

      did you not read any of the rest of the fucking article?

      • wcperspective

        The letters/justification were added much later.

        • Alex

          Perhaps there could be an annotation when articles are updates moving forward. Standard format is to add it to the end of an article with date of original and date of update.

      • Wise Profit

        I was going to say this before but then realized 8/10 comments at the time were all asking questions that were answered in the article.
        As they say, the masses are _______

      • Tim H

        You obviously don’t realize that the article was amended after I left my comment.

        Appreciate you not jumping to f’ing conclusions…..

  • robert biniszkiewicz

    He purchased this building for $62k in 2016??

    That price this recently indicates either serious structural issues or else a seriously out of touch seller. It would be nice to know what the issues are.

    If the idea is only to augment the neighboring property by providing parking, then I’d vote no. If the project is to seriously improve and expand next door and this is in the way, then I’d listen. If it were up to me.

    • Tim H

      Agree with you on both accounts! The sales price was ridiculously low, and I don’t think the property was publicly listed last year – maybe in inside buyer?

      The package listing for 20 & 26 Allen was $1.7M last year. The buildings were in better condition, and a parking lot was included, but that gives you some idea of the real market value on this block.

    • Mike

      do you people seriously not read the entire articles? The engineer’s report stated that parts of the first floor were collapsing into the crawlspace below and that the rear third of the wooden framing was so rotted that it isn’t supporting the masonry. So obviously there’s serious structural issues

      • robert biniszkiewicz

        the story was added to considerably since it was published. Original had no reference to structural issues.

    • BuffaloJimmyz

      But who cares what you think?

  • laldm109

    Unless there’s more to this than is in this article, the Preservation Board would be lying down on their job if they allow this to be demolished.

    • Bringing back Buffalo

      The Preservation Board is an advisory committee and nothing more.

      • laldm109

        The Preservation Board the authority to deny the demolition permit since this is in a local historic district. The Common Council does have the authority to overturn their rulings, but that rarely happens.

    • Alex

      This building is a piece of crap, with structural issues and nothing culturally or architectural significant. The National Parks Service denied Part II application that would have lead to historic tax credits.

      • laldm109

        The fact that the owner even got to a ruling on a Part 2 application means that the building WAS accepted as historic by NPS and SHPO (since the Part 1 was approved) and so it shouldn’t be torn down. I would expect the Preservation Board to take that into account in their decision.

        If NPS denied the Part 2, that just means they reviewed it and didn’t think the proposed work was going to be done in a historically sensitive enough way. If the owner still wants tax credits, they could submit a new Part 2 with a new, more sensitive, work scope. The door isn’t closed on that.

      • MrGreenJeans

        As an ardent and reasonable “preservationist”, I must agree with you. This building is less than “nothing special”, and is actually the last remnant of a very stupid decision by the Allentown preservationists to fight the Towne owners when they wanted to restore a Victorian building while clearing-out later additions to make a new restaurant. Allentown insisted: “All Or Nothing!” …. They got nothing. Tear it down.

  • Are they demolitions for parking lots?

    • Alex

      No. The intention is to demo the building because it had serious structural issues and replace it with a new building sensitive to the historic district.

  • Matthew Moje

    Does he owe the corner lot as well? Maybe there is more to this….

  • Vandra

    Demo is only justified (in almost every case) if the replacement is an improvement. An appropriate infill of the corner is sorely needed, and I understand that a small lot is hard to build on. I would think a four story corner building incorporating this lot might make sense. But until actual plans are shared, I would not favor demolition.

    • Wise Profit

      Only 3 stories though because of the Green Code right?

      • OldFirstWard

        The Green Code only designates three-stories for a very few limited areas on certain streets, not the entire city.

      • No_Illusions

        You can build higher than 3 stories with the Green Code, you just need permission from City Hall first.

        Part of the purpose of the Green Code was to provide easy to follow guidelines so projects following said guidelines need not be held up with bureaucratic tape. But if you want to go beyond those guidelines then there is also a process for that.

  • Josh Robinson

    No way should this be demolished unless there are plans in hand for a replacement with the adjoining lot. Allen is on the rise and this is on the doorstep of the medical campus – we don’t need any more vacant lots!

    Allentown is both a local AND national historic district though, which should grant the Preservation Board more authority than they have in similar cases in the Elmwood Village.

    • Josh Robinson

      Shame to lose 33 Brunswick and 289 Northland Avenue too…those are very intact streets without any missing teeth.

    • Captain Picard

      Who the hell are you?

      • Josh Robinson

        I’m a bit confused by a poster with a fictional pseudonym asking someone using their real name and photo who they are. Who are you, Picard?

        • Captain Picard

          I am the Captain of the Enterprise, registry number NCC-1701-D.

    • Alex

      The demo is to build a new building, not to make way for a vacant lot or parking lot.

      • Josh Robinson

        These details were added to the article after my initial comments.

  • Buffalo Guest

    8 story high end apartment building.

  • Matthew Moje

    Well there you god! We got our answers! it would be cool if they could save the brick façade.

  • Wise Profit

    Quick! Someone find something “historic” about this building! Didn’t Abraham Lincoln’s nephew’s wife’s brother tie his shoes in front of this building or something?

    • Randy503

      A building needn’t be historic to have value to the community. If there is no structural reason to demolish the building, it should be saved, and is a valuable asset to the street life.

      We really don’t have to demolish everything, you know.

      • Alex

        Trust me, the Buffalo “community” isn’t going to fall to shit if this building is demolished to make way for a new building designed to fit into the historic district.

        We really don’t have to save everything, you know.

  • OldFirstWard

    “Although the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards do not prohibit additions to historic structures, the NPS nonetheless cited a “Technical Preservation Standard” which arbitrarily proscribed additions to buildings with fewer than four stories.”

    Which Technical Preservation Standard is the one you are referring to? Could you post a link to the decision by the NPS.

    It would also help to include a brief history of the building including its build date and early photos.

  • Alex

    The building is nothing special in regard to architecture. Structural issues have been found AND the NPS denied Part II.

    Not every building needs to be saved and this is definitely one that wouldn’t be missed.

    Buffalo Preservation Board is only advisory. However, if they don’t approve the demo of this building for the reasons stated, then they should find alternative solutions to present the owner if they insist he keeps this crumbling piece of crap.

    Sokol is an outstanding architect.The plans he had for the building can be found on his website. Given his talent and awareness of good design, his new construction plans will probably be well suited for the historic district.

    • OldFirstWard

      Actually the facade restoration looks magnificent. But the rooftop third-story addition looks terrible. I can see why it was rejected.

    • HwA

      What a shame. The proposal was nice!

  • MrGreenJeans

    Now that Allen Street has been permanently marred by the hideous mountain of sun-blocking crap on Main Street, there’s nothing that could make this end of Allen any worse.

    • greenca

      Yeah. The med school was such a mistake and ruined the city.

      Get a grip.

      • MrGreenJeans

        Get a brain. Nobody said it “ruined the city”. It’s a dark, overbearing slab, looming over the end of Allen Street. It is totally out of place. That is undeniable.

    • Alex

      Agree 100%

  • Tim

    To call that corner a hole is being polite. It is rat infested, with puke everywhere on the weekend. As you walk by you see people relieving themselves against this building, or sleeping after pushing off. You can regularly see where people climb over the lattice of 948 Main to get in the back of 15 Allen to sleep. It’s nothing to see the windows broke in, then the plywood removed, locks broken, etc: people break in there all the time. It falling apart isn’t just the fault of negligent owners, but also practiced oversight by the city and the Allentown Association which recently, themselves, decamped from across the street.

  • benfranklin

    A few months back they were taking some kind of soil samples in the empty lot next to this, but close to this building.

    • Tim

      When I asked them what they were drilling for they said they were testing for subsidence, or potential for movement in the soil. It seems there have been issues with heavy equipment on Main Street causing buildings on that corner to develop cracks and settle after all these years. If you look at Main St. as you approach the signal at Allen the pavement is so uneven that when you stand at the bus stop there you can feel the ground shake.

      • benfranklin

        Thanks for the information about the drilling.

        Where the yellow sheet is in the window, the floor is gone. Something of significant size died in here about a year ago, based on the thousands of flies on the inside of the glass. For a long time a dog stuck his nose out from under the right door when you walked by. Hope someone fed him periodically.

        • Tim

          The window with the sheet got busted in back in July and was replaced with plywood, but that won’t last either. Yeah, I wondered about the flies too. I never saw the dog but it wouldn’t surprise me. The back door used to be left open. The upstairs windows were open all last winter, so it’s not like the old or new owners were worried about the weather. I inquired about the property in 2015 thinking it would be cheap to pick up, and I was told there were imminent plans to begin work. It’s not much to look at, and I can’t fathom the historical aspect, but it seemed like a decent location for an artist co-op, with apartments upstairs and studio space on the first floor. That end of the block needs something.

  • Josh Smith

    I live over on this end of Allen. Was wondering how long it’d take for someone to buy the property and take the building down. Can’t wait to see what they’ve got planned for it (and I presume the corner lot currently owned by the family behind the Towne).

  • breckenridge

    What a terrible font for the body of a letter.

  • paulb

    “Pave paradise, put up a parking lot”

    Actually, the building is non-historic, insignificant architecture and structurally unsafe (which cannot be economically fixed). That the owner has to go through some many loops to demo this obvious dump is evidence of bureaucracy run amok.

    Buffalo preservationists = Self Licking Ice Cream Cone.