Just two years ago, 65 Grant Street was fighting for its life, beset by almost every force that’s reduced building after building in Buffalo to surface parking lots or “shovel ready sites” for decades: a down-at-the-heels neighborhood, an intransigent owner (who ran a health clinic there for three years with no running water while the building decayed), an ambivalent housing court, water infiltration, brutal winters causing brickwork to collapse, a fire, and whatnot.
Fortunately, 65 Grant Street also had some of the best friends a building – or a neighborhood – could have. As Queenseyes wrote in December, 2015:
I spoke to architect Kathleen Kinan moments ago, who was having a hard time containing her excitement. She told me that a NY Main Street Grant had been secured, which will cover the cost of 20-25% of the project. The funds will be administered by PUSH [BNSC, PUSH Buffalo’s housing arm]. Already some work is underway to prevent additional water from entering the building, plus bricks have been cleared from the roof and the “wall-to-wall of hypodermic needles” have been removed from the interior.
Kinan told me that this was a very close call. After a small fire in the building, the Fire Commissioner condemned the property. Kinan took a look at the building and didn’t notice serious damage, so she went down to City Hall. “That was in June,” she said. “With the help of lawyer Keri Callocchia, we began to navigate exactly what it would take to save the building.
A key to saving the building was finding a responsible new owner to take title from the former owner. Kinan and Callocchia found Paul Aswad, of Niagara County, who fit the bill. Architect Kinan designed the rehab.
If you’re new to this particular saga, Buffalo Rising has long followed this building’s downs and ups:
- After Court Date 65 Grant Still Demolition Ready (June 25, 2015)
- Save 65 Grant Street (June 27, 2015)
- Big Deal: 65 Grant Street SOLD (July 29, 2015)
- 65 Grant Street – “Merry Christmas Buffalo” (December 23, 2015)
- Work Begins on 65 Grant Street (October 19, 2016)
To have lost this building just north of the Grant/Ferry gateway, aside from creating an almost unbearable gap in the streetscape, and costing Ferguson Avenue its terminal view, would have sent a horrible message about Grant Street and its immediate prospects for progress.
As part of a collection of fine neoclassical buildings in the vicinity of Grant and Ferry (some pictured in the photo gallery, below), 65 Grant also contributes to an especially strong and coherent node at the intersection of Arnold Street. Seen from Arnold Street, the buildings at Grant and Arnold together form a kind of yellow-brick, neoclassical outdoor room, almost like an Italian piazza. In fact, one could imagine a project to return Arnold Street to two-way traffic, allowing the end between these buildings to be closed to cars to become a gathering space with outdoor seating and people watching. Although not as well configured, something similar could also be done with Ferguson Avenue on the other side of Grant Street. Urban interventions like that, which could be tried temporarily during street festivals, could boost the already vibrant street life on this block between the Grant/Ferry gateway and Breckenridge Street.
Now, 65 Grant Street is getting an important new friend, and anchor tenant, Assemblyman Sean Ryan. In a statement released Thursday, he announced his intention to move his district office, with four employees, to 65 Grant Street. He will be taking the south half of the building’s first-floor commercial space, and vacating his current offices in the basement at 936 Delaware Avenue. He had been on a five-year lease arranged by his predecessor, Assemblyman Sam Hoyt. Ryan won a special election to the vacant Assembly seat after Hoyt was appointed to serve as regional president for Empire State Development. The Hoyt lease expired in December, and Ryan has been on a month-to-month arrangement while he looked for new space. I’ve known for some time that he wanted to move away from an office on one of the most prosperous blocks of Delaware Avenue to be closer to some of his neediest constituents. So this seems like a natural move for Ryan, who, prior to his election, was in charge of PUSH Buffalo’s housing arm, the Buffalo Neighborhood Stabilization Corporation.
In his statement Thursday, Ryan said, “I am excited to announce that the district office for the 149th Assembly District will be moving to the growing Grant Street neighborhood. The new office will be more accessible to the community and to the constituents of the district. I encourage everyone who is in need of assistance with state-related matters to visit the new office on Grant Street.” Ryan plans to cut the ribbon on the new office on August 1.
This couldn’t be better news for those who have been involved with rescuing and rehabbing 65 Grant. Ryan’s presence provides a long-term, stable, visible anchor tenant for the building, and a kind of seal of approval for the project. It will only help in attracting interest in the remaining commercial space. To learn more about that, see below.
Pictures of the building as of Thursday are in the photo gallery below.
Paul J. Aswad
7703 Niagara Falls Boulevard
Niagara Falls, NY 14304
Phone: (716) 283-9333