To get a handle on the plight of 308 Crowley Avenue (former King Sewing Machine Plant, circa 1910), you might want to check out this Preservation Ready rundown. Over the years, there have been numerous attempts to save the building, to little avail. The historic structure has been subject to fire, dismantling, demolition by neglect, housing court battles, and just about everything else imaginable that would prevent it from being successfully salvaged.
At long last (but not in the nick of time), the Buffalo Urban Development Corporation (BUDC) purchased the building (in 2018). The plan to purchase the building was brought about by Mayor Brown, as Chairman of Buffalo Urban Development Corporation (BUDC), Brendan Mehaffy, Executive Director of the City’s Office of Strategic Planning, and the BUDC Real Estate Committee. BUDC now owns the seven-acre site, which is a brownfield property.
Moving forward, we’re looking at a significant demolition due to the structure’s unsafe and compromised condition. When the demolition is over, the only things that will remain are the original smokestack and clock/water tower – sound familiar? It’s actually quite unfortunate because we are finally starting to see these types of industrial warehouse structures retrofitted throughout the city. 308 Crowley Avenue just couldn’t hold on long enough to see reuse scenarios such as Barcalo Buffalo Living & Commerce and numerous others. Depending on how you look at it (glass half full or empty), there is a silver lining.
“I am pleased to announce an agreement has been reached to move the demolition process forward, while saving two of the most visible elements of the original buildings. We now have approval from the New York State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and we issued demolition bid documents today,” Mayor Brown said. “This first phase of demolition and cleanup will remove a significant blight on this neighborhood and make way for a productive redevelopment.”
The development that Mayor Brown is referring to includes BUDC’s sale of one acre of vacant land and a cinder block structure to the Enterprise Folding Box Co., which backs up to the Isabelle St. side of the complex. Enterprise Folding Box is a maker of pizza boxes (and other food boxes and containers) – the company has seen a boom of business during the pandemic.
“Today’s announcement is the result of persistence and collaboration. The Department of Permits & Inspections worked for years with private owners in an effort to get them to comply with Building Code violations. When not enough was being done, the Buffalo Urban Development Corporation stepped in to negotiate the acquisition of the property,” Mehaffy said. “Once acquired, numerous departments and agencies within city government worked together to secure funding and approvals. When the blight is removed and historic elements preserved, the Mayor’s Office of Strategic Planning will work with the Riverside community on a future use for this site that improves quality of life and strengthens the neighborhood,” Mehaffy said.
“Upon the Mayor’s request, as Chairman of BUDC, our organization has kept the property intact and insured until this point could be reached. We will continue in that role and will work in coordination with the City of Buffalo until a defined redevelopment strategy is reached,” said BUDC President Brandye Merriweather.
“I approached Mayor Brown and said we need to do something before someone is seriously injured or killed. Brendan Mehaffy and I then brainstormed to get BUDC to purchase the property. The remaining stumbling block has been waiting for SHPO to approve the partial demolition and now that has happened,” Council Member Golombek said. On behalf of the residents of Riverside, I thank Mayor Brown, his administration, and BUDC for giving this site a great future.”
^ Photos by Terry Fisher
While everyone wants to see development progress moving forward, this demolition is a tough pill to swallow. I spoke to Jessie Fisher, Executive Director Preservation Buffalo Niagara (PBN) who agreed.
“It’s distressing to lose any of our industrial heritage considering the amount that we have left,” said Fisher. “There is no preservation plan for Buffalo. In 2006, the City adopted a Comprehensive Plan, which recommended a moratorium on all non-emergency demolitions until a preservation plan was completed, and that never happened. As the leader of this non-profit, with limited resources, we can’t be everywhere at once. Therefore, we need a guiding document in place. It has to come from this administration. At this point, all we can do is react. There is no plan to protect our historic resources… we have fresh water and historic resources. Those are what separate this city from the others. This is another missed opportunity.”
Initial demolition is expected to begin in July.