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Wrecking Buffalo: Owner Seeks to Demolish Schoellkopf Icehouse

Ontario Specialty Contracting, Inc. (OSC) on behalf of South Buffalo Development, LLC (SBD) is seeking Preservation Board approval to demolish the remaining portions of the Schoellkopf Icehouse located on Elk Street. Sections of the Icehouse along Lee Street were demolished last year after being determined to be unsafe.

The National Park Service concluded that the demolition and rehabilitation work that SBD conducted on the site “does not meet the Secretary of the Interior Standards for Rehabilitation” and deemed the work not eligible for the 20 percent historic preservation investment tax credits. SBD is still seeking to redevelop the Powerhouse located on the property, the former Buffalo Color plant at Elk and Lee streets.

Restoration Plan for the Icehouse

From the application to the Preservation Board:

South Buffalo Development, LLC had intended to re-use this building for redevelopment into offices and light retail, however our NYS Rehabilitation Tax credit was denied. Without these credits the work cannot be done cost effectively as the building is in need of numerous and costly structural repairs. OSC, under contract with SBD is applying for a demolition permit to take down the remaining 2-story building so that SBD can move forward with redevelopment of the former Boiler House building.

From the May 15, 2018 National Park Service Letter:

The Powerhouse and Icehouse are interconnected structures that are the sole remaining elements of a large industrial complex that once housed one of the nation’s largest dye manufacturers. The National Park Service issued a preliminary determination that the Powerhouse and Icehouse were eligible for individual listing in the National Register of Historic Places on June 16, 2017.

The Part 2 application, received by the NPS in December 2017, stated that work had already begun, including the demolition of the northwestern bays of the Powerhosue and over one-half of the Icehouse. The demolished portion of the Icehouse is identified on drawing HF-100 as the Icehouse Freezing Tank Area. It was a large, character-defining portion of the complex and a critical component of the historic use of the site. It does not appear that any treatments other than total restoration, which was deemed too expensive, and total demolition were considered.

The demolition, particularly of one-half of the Icehouse, which was a character-defining component of the site, markedly diminishes the historic appearance and character of the property, and, therefore, does not meet the Standards. Demolition of the northwestern bay of the Powerhouse may have been acceptable treatment in a rehabilitation project that otherwise me the Standards, However, in this case the removal of these bay further diminishes the historic appearance and character of the complex.

The demolition does not meet Standard 1, which requires that a property be placed in a new use that requires minimal change to the defining characteristics of a property, and Standards 2 and 5, which require that the historic character of a property be preserved. In addition, the substantial loss of historic fabric and character-defining parts of the complex has diminished the integrity of the property to the point that it may no longer be eligible for National Register Listing.

NPS adds a zinger later in the letter:

The NPS consistently advises that owners not undertake rehabilitation work prior to review and approval of a Part 2 application. As stated in program regulations, owners who undertake rehabilitation projects without prior approval by the NPS do so strictly at their own risk. Had the Part 2 been submitted prior to undertaking demolition of a significant part of the complex, we may have been able to recommend modifications that would have enabled the project to meet the Standards. That opportunity is foreclosed because the work that does not meet the Standards is complete, and character-defining portions of the complex are gone.

And that’s that.

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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