Aug 28, 2012

Main Street Grant Program Has Great Impact in Parkside

You may have noticed the many recent improvements along Main Street between Florence and Leroy. Several buildings have undergone some incredible transformations in the past few weeks thanks to the efforts of the Parkside Community Association (PCA) and grant money from the Main Street grant program.


In late 2010 the PCA received a grant award of $500,000 from the State Office of Community Renewal. The state Main Street Grant Program is used to encourage rehab of mixed-use residential and commercial districts. Grant monies from the program have been utilized throughout Buffalo including this stretch along Main Street, the Larkin District, and on Grant Street.

The grant covers 75% of the cost and the building owner covers the remaining 25%. The results speak for themselves. Take a look below at the image of The Oakwood (2297-2303 Main) before the renovations. The change is nothing short of dramatic and really brings attention to the historic details of this fabulous building.

The Oakwood Before
Google Maps image of The Oakwood before renovations
Paul Burgio, owner of Burgio’s TV, has been in The Oakwood since 1981 and purchased the building in 1991. He has some fond memories when film crews descended upon Buffalo to film The Natural with Robert Redford. Paul has a handful of great candid shots of the set and crew when they were filming at the Parkside Candies building across the street. He was amazed at the level of detail for the scene, which included several period correct, but totally fake newspapers that were for sale at the newsstand in the scene.

Several photos of The Oakwood during the filing of The Natural
The Oakwood was built in 1923 and unfortunately I have not had a chance to delve too much into the history of the building. It was used as a car dealership during the 1950’s when “Saul’s Studebaker” occupied the building and later changed hands to “Bilsco Imports” who remained during the 1960s and 1970s. Four apartments are upstairs in the former administrative offices and feature some incredible woodwork. Now that the windows have been completely replaced, the views of Main Street are quite fantastic.

In addition to the Oakwood, five other buildings have or are in the process of undergoing renovations. The other buildings include the former Parkside Candies building (2302), Eyecare Professionals (2290), 2323 Main Street, and 2288 Main Street. Tony’s Ranch House at 2285 is also one of the six buildings that has received funding and was recently highlighted on Buffalo Rising.

View of Main Street from the new windows in one of the apartments upstairs. Notice the retention of the original transom glass above.
There was also a small pot of funds for improvements for the public right of way. Thirty granite tablets have been ordered for installation on both sides of Main Street. The tablets will depict historical scenes from before European settlers up to present day and will likely be installed in the next two weeks. A series of street banners will also be installed that have already been approved by the Common Council. A large mural is planned for the side of The Oakwood and the other side of the street facing School 54. The vacant lot next to The Oakwood will be converted into a small Peace Park for the neighborhood to enjoy. A ribbon cutting ceremony is planned for early Fall.

I'll be getting in contact with some of the other building owner for some follow up posts to highlight their progress as well. For additional photos of The Oakwood, click here.

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Aug 24, 2012

Things are Looking Up for the Bethlehem Steel Administration Building

The Bethlehem Steel Administration building is going to be standing for at least another 90 days in an attempt to determine if the historic structure can be saved and rehabilitated. Preservationists and community activists have been hard at work convincing the owners and the City of Lackawanna to reconsider the demolition in favor of rehabilitation. Yesterday, Judge Kenneth F. Case granted a stay of demolition to owners, Gateway Trade Center.

Local activist and blogger, David Torke of fixBuffalo, has been instrumental in the discussions to save the building and consider reuse. Torke was the person who first spotted the demolition equipment on site several months ago. Working through his various networks he was able to assemble a team to spread the word and protest the city's decision to force the demolition of the structure.

Danielle Huber, chairperson of the Lackawanna Industrial Heritage Group (LIHG), is ecstatic about the stay of demolition and recognizes the need for a strategic plan. "Within the next 90 days it would be ideal to stabilize the components of the building that meet the historic criteria and button it up properly for the winter months," said Huber, "As well as developing a thorough reuse plan and allocate grant monies being offered."
The LIHG is a group of concerned citizens who urge leaders to act now for the implementation of historic preservation ordinances. They will be working with Lackawanna officials to make the city a Certified Local Government.

Owners were originally planning to use grant money from New York State to offset the costs of the expensive demolition. However, the money was intended for rehabilitation and the funds could not be used for demolition. Once Elizabeth Martin of the State Historic Preservation Office walked through the building, it was determined the building was definitely eligible for National Register listing and needs to have the structure evaluated to see if it is sound.

The conversation around the building has taken a complete turn from a definite demolition to evaluating rehabbing the structure. Historic tax credits may bring the project online as discussions continue between the owners, Torke, the City of Lackawanna, and preservation consultant, Jason Yots.

If you'd like to see some fantastic photos of the building, historic and current, check out this link to the Administration Building Facebook photography page.

Entry Image courtesy of the Steel Plant Museum via David Torke of fixBuffalo.

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