A fantastic commercial building at the corner of Michigan and Riley Street is coming back to life. 1325 Michigan LLC is undertaking the work.
1325 Michigan will become a hub of the community, and will include a commercial kitchen space and a small food-based storefront, establishing a space where farmers from the Michigan-Riley Urban Farm and other farms within the Farmer Pirates Cooperative can wash and prepare produce for distribution to the community or for preparation on site.
“There has been extensive structural repairs to the building and that this is really a ‘save’ from demolition,” says Mike Raleigh of 1325 Michigan LLC. Raleigh is taking the lead on the project, and is working with architect Brad Wales. The group has come up with a plan for adaptive reuse of the long-vacant, 2.5 story brick Italianate structure that will build upon the growing urban agricultural movement in Buffalo.
According to Raleigh, the work includes new second floor windows, tightly fitting the original brick rough openings, now facing Michigan Avenue. The brick mould has been restored and painted black and will be reinstalled soon. Behind the plywood and two by four – temporary protection covering the first floor, work on the storefront facade within the cast iron columns is nearly complete.
“It is one of the last standing commercial structures on this section of Michigan,” said Raleigh. “It has great potential to become a community anchor and center for light commercial activity for the neighbors who live here and surrounding neighborhood. People walk and drive by when we’re working on it every day and ask what it will be, and tell us it hasn’t been open in 25 to 40 years. Some folks still remember it as a laundromat, other lived in the apartments way back or knew people who did.”
The building consists of two sections constructed at different times. According to Raleigh, the section that meets the corner of Michigan Avenue and Riley Street was constructed before 1900, while the southern half of the building went up 20 years later, replacing a two-story wooden frame house that was on the site.
In order to create the open-air courtyard space, the group has installed steel reinforcements to secure the existing brick walls.
They also reset the cast iron column in the front right corner of the building, which sustained damage years ago from a car crashing into that side of the building. The rehab includes new windows, mechanical systems, and build-out of the commercial kitchen and bathrooms.
Though parts of the building’s roof suffered structural damage (now fully repaired), the group has decided to take a more creative approach by adapting that section into an open-air venue for cultural performances and events. “The flat roof portion of the building collapsed some time in the 2000s,” Raleigh said. “We think it presents a unique opportunity to create this outdoor courtyard that will be ideal for events, live music, media and art installations, dramatic performances, neighborhood functions and parties, and hopefully a recurring farmers market.”