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Grant Adds Momentum to Historic Preservation Efforts in University Heights

Buffalo’s University Heights, home to one of the city’s newest and largest historic districts, may soon add another district to ranks of the National Register thanks to a $9,120 Preserve New York grant awarded to the University Heights Collaborative (UHC) by the Preservation League of New York State and New York State Council on the Arts.

The project will focus on surveying the streets to the west of Main Street in University Heights and listing several streets to the east of Bailey Avenue on the National Register of Historic Places.

The grant will allow the UHC to work with kta preservation specialists, a Buffalo-based preservation consulting firm, on a reconnaissance level survey focusing on the University Heights neighborhood located to the west of Main Street near the University at Buffalo South Campus. Built between 1910-1940, the University Heights neighborhood was one of the last to be developed within the City of Buffalo’s boundaries. The houses therein represent a diverse mix of styles, including American Foursquare, Colonial Revival, and Workmen’s Bungalow.

Goals for the project include measuring the neighborhood’s architectural integrity, gaining a better understanding of the historical development of the area, and identifying whether the neighborhood or portions of it could be considered National Register-eligible. In addition, UHC hopes to add a portion of the Kensington Heights neighborhood to the National Register as a standalone historic district.

“kta preservation specialists is honored to conduct this survey, where we will be identifying the area’s architectural character and gaining a better understanding of the story of its development.  Our work in the University Heights (East) District over the last few years has made thousands of homeowners eligible for the historic tax credit program, and gave us a nuanced understanding of the architectural integrity and historical value of this region. We look forward to taking this first step in identifying the potential for a similar program west of Main Street.” said Annie Schentag, Consultant with kta Preservation Specialists.

Having seen the positive impacts of the recently listed University Heights-Summit Park-Berkshire Terrace Historic District, the UHC sees the survey work funded through the Preserve New York grant as critical to maintaining strong and vital neighborhoods across University Heights.

“Even though our area was only recently declared an historic neighborhood, I have already taken advantage and received the tax credit from the NY OPRHP Historic Homeownership Rehabilitation Credit program.  My 1929 beautiful, historic house was painted this Fall 2020, and in early March 2021 the $2K credit (20% of the $10K cost) was deposited in my bank account after filing my 2020 NYS taxes! I have already been approved for my 2021 projects: the restoration of many of my original windows.  I’m proof that this program is working!” said Maureen Milligan, a resident of University Heights

Craftsmen-style detailing seen on homes located on Heath Street, one of the streets to be surveyed.

Once nominated and listed to the National Register of Historic Districts, eligible homeowners within these neighborhoods qualify for the New York State Historic Homeowner Tax Credit Program, which covers 20% of qualified rehabilitation costs, up to a credit value of $50,000. These tax credits are an important tool in ensuring stability in neighborhoods like University Heights, as both recent and longtime homeowners address the challenges associated with an aging housing stock.

“Preservation has an important role to play in crafting a more equitable society. It tells us that the stories told and lives lived in a vernacular bungalow are just as important to tell and preserve as those from high style Victorian mansions.” said Darren Cotton, UHC Board Member. “We believe this survey is a critical first step in getting our neighbors access to historic tax credits, making it more affordable to reinvest in their homes and build a life In University Heights.”

Preserve New York is a signature grant program of the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) and the Preservation League of New York State. Preserve New York is made possible with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. Additional support for projects in Nassau and Suffolk Counties is provided by the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation.

“Navigating the difficulties and hardships of the past year has been a challenge for nonprofits and municipalities across the state,” said Erin Tobin, Vice President for Policy and Preservation and the Preservation League. “The League is grateful to our program partners at NYSCA and the Gardiner Foundation for continuing to support Preserve New York, which will grant much-needed dollars to so many worthwhile preservation projects this year.”

Written by Darren Cotton

Darren Cotton

Darren has over a decade of experience in the fields of community development, urban planning, and information design. Working as Director of Community Development & Planning at the University District Community Development Association (UDCDA), Darren was responsible for writing and administering over $2 million in grant funding focused on commercial corridor revitalization, small business development, alternative transportation planning, historic preservation, public art, and community capacity building in Buffalo's University District. As a graduate student at the University at Buffalo, Darren founded The Tool Library, a community-based tool lending library, with an aim of providing affordable tool access and building the Sharing Economy in WNY. With a Bachelor's Degree in International Studies and Linguistics and a Master's Degree in Urban Planning from the University at Buffalo, Darren works to bridge the gap between research and policy through planning, design, and grassroots activism. and is a firm believer that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.

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