Just before Memorial Day weekend, the African Heritage Food Co-Op and Preservation Buffalo Niagara came together to announce that they were teaming up to save a significant historic building located at 238 Carlton Street. The news was issued as an answer to an emergency demolition order that had been placed. But now, instead of wrecking Buffalo, the two organizations will be building Buffalo, by resurrecting the building into the future home of the African Heritage Food Co-Op.
It turns out that the circa 1876 building (Italianate Style with Greek Revival Style cast-iron storefront columns) was originally constructed as a grocery store and residence by German immigrant Peter Knapp. The grocery store and deli operated at this site for upwards of a century, but the structure has now been vacant for close to 20 years. The back section of the building was subjected to fire damage, and in 2017 it was purchased by Borderland Advantage, with the “intention” of being restored, though nothing ever happened to properly secure the structure, ultimately resulting in the emergency demolition order by the City.
The first sign of hope for the building was the Landmark Status, which was brought about by Preservation Buffalo Niagara and the Fruit-Belt McCarley Gardens Housing Task Force in 2018. After not being able to come to terms with the owner (there’s a real shocker), in April of this year, an anonymous community member stepped up and purchased the property, before donating it to the African Heritage Food Co-Op.
Moving forward, Preservation Buffalo Niagara will provide funding to stabilize the building, and will work with the Co-op to raise funds to build out the community-owned and community-controlled grocery store.
“This will be an opportunity for the residents to directly benefit economically from the Fruit Belt resurgence,” said Alexander Wright, Founder and General Manager of the African Heritage Food Co- Op. “We plan to hire residents within walking distance and hopefully partner with surrounding institutions to aid in the healthy eating of their constituents. We can not do this without the help of the community and allies.”
“Preservation Buffalo Niagara commends the African Heritage Food Co-Op for its vision in not only preserving this building, but in preserving the culture and quality of life in the Fruit Belt,” said Jessie Fisher, Executive Director of Preservation Buffalo Niagara. “We are so proud to stand with these dedicated community partners and to work alongside them on this project.”
The project will appear before the Preservation Board for approvals on May 30th, and stabilization work is expected to commence shortly thereafter. The AHFC is actively fundraising for this effort. To support the project and make the Co-Op a reality faster, you can donate through Facebook at AHFCBuffalo, call 716-573-1844, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.