Nov 15, 2013

Fantastic Units and Historic Charm Converge at the Rehabilitated Fenton Building


The Fenton at 945 West Ferry Street (google map) is wrapping up an impressive rehabilitation and has been rebranded as the Fenton Village. Sinatra & Co. Realty purchased the property in 2011 along with 1516 to 1526 Main Street shortly after. Previously the building was a prominent neighborhood eyesore, but it has been transformed into 23 apartments at a cost of three million dollars.

The Fenton

Units range from 1150 to 1180 square feet and feature original hardwood floors, exposed brick fireplaces, gated parking, key-fob entry, stainless steel appliances, shared balconies, and a 50 inch, flat screen, wall-mounted television. There are 18 two bedroom, two bath units and 5 two bedroom, one bath units that rent for $1200 per month. Laundry facilities are currently under construction for tenants on the first floor.


Planted benches and green space are located to the rear of the building for all tenants and their pets to enjoy. A large mural was created on the side of the metal fabrication building next door that faces the parking lot. It was based on a photo from the early 20th century of Main and West Ferry Streets.


The Fenton was built for guests of the Pan-Am Expo in 1900-01 and originally had five storefront spaces, a small lobby, and thirty-six hotel rooms. Originally the alcove porches on the upper floors extended slightly beyond the building for small balconies, but were removed long ago. Even after years of neglect and bad tenants, the building retains much of its original integrity including tile mosaics, tin ceilings, anaglypta with a fleur-de-lis and garland motif lining the hallways, and beautiful staircases.


For additional photos of the Fenton click here for my ipernity page and to inquire about renting one of these great apartments, get connected with Sinatra & Co. Realty at 716-220-8468


Nov 9, 2013

The History of Hamlin Park Part IX: Concentrated Code Enforcement and Model Cities Bring Positive Change

Now that Hamlin Park has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places I've decided to do a short series of the history of the neighborhood. This information comes directly from the National Register nomination that Preservation Studios completed. Check back for additional installations in the series in the coming weeks. Stay up to date with all things Hamlin Park by liking the Hamlin Park Historic District on Facebook.


In a 1967 article by Ralph Taylor and George A. Williams called “Housing in Model Cities,” the authors summarized the goals of the program as meeting the housing needs of residents by improving existing homes and providing housing for citizens of all income levels. This was meant to alleviate concerns that such a program would be used to gentrify a neighborhood while failing to provide low and moderate-income housing.  

If only low-income housing were provided, cities posed the problem of perpetuating conditions of poverty without solving the problems that lead to those conditions in the first place. As such, part of the program stipulated that locating housing projects in areas of high racial segregation would be “prima facie unacceptable,” lest the federal assistance be “used to solidify ghetto housing patterns.”  The Model Cities Program’s solution to this problem was to emphasize rehabilitation; not only was this a less expensive option, but it ensured that federal money could be implemented from within the community and not by forced gentrification measures or ghetto entrenchment.  The program was directly influenced by principles of the Baltimore plan the decade before, and HUD promoted Model Cities as well as several other programs beginning in 1966.

The incredible dome at St. Francis De Sales Church

Hamlin Park, nestled between Main, Jefferson and Humboldt Parkway, managed to avoid many of the problems that plagued Buffalo’s East Side neighborhoods but not all of them. The southern and eastern edges in particular  faced many issues resulting from poverty, including the spread of blight. In the mid-1960s, city officials began a sweeping reform of urban renewal initiatives, implementing many of the new HUD programs, including Model Cities.

In 1966 the Buffalo Division of Rehabilitation and Conservation began a seven-year, citywide, housing inspection program. For Hamlin Park and several other neighborhoods, the division’s goal was to qualify them for a program known as “concentrated code enforcement,” which would trigger federal funds and loans.  Areas were chosen for this HUD program because they did not suffer as strongly from the physical and social problems ailing other parts of the city: as described in the grant handbook, this program was “not a vehicle for correcting the diversified problems of so-called “rock bottom” slums.”  


In order to qualify, city officials surveyed an area and noted any houses that were either out of code or in disrepair.  In addition to receiving funds for home improvements, the area would also be able to take advantage of money for new parks and infrastructure, such as streetlights.  Homeowners who qualified for the program, which was the vast majority of residents, were able to take advantage of federal grants up to $3,000, with the goal being, “to maintain and stabilize the predominantly residential Hamlin Park neighborhood and prevent it from slipping into decay and blight.”   The Allentown-Lakeview code enforcement project was the first to occur, followed by Hamlin Park, and then the Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood. 


The Hamlin Park Community and Taxpayers Association formed 1966 to assist the city in these efforts. The association was the culmination of efforts from several other organizations in the area, including the Humboldt-Delevan Interest League, the Humboldt Family Association, the Community Action Organization, and several local block clubs. The taxpayer’s association was integral in helping the city perform surveys, in ensuring community involvement and in coordinating the proper dispersal of funds. 

During the Model Cities era, the association was directly involved in helping to preserve the character and integrity of the neighborhood and community. Indeed, prior to the organization’s formation, “Hamlin Park” had very loose interpretations, sometimes referring to small portions of the area (such as the Driving Park development after 1912), or blending into the adjacent Humboldt Park or Cold Springs neighborhoods. The taxpayer’s association clearly defined Hamlin Park as the area “bordered by Humboldt Parkway on the east, Jefferson Avenue on the west, East Utica on the South, Main-Kensington on the North.”   This solidified the identity of the neighborhood that has now been known as Hamlin Park for nearly fifty years.


During the concentrated code enforcement surveys, the Division of Rehabilitation and Conservation utilized a rating system to determine building quality that covered fifteen categories, eight for the interior and seven for the exterior, and covering most building features, including foundation, porches, stairs, windows, roof, ceilings, walls, plumbing and heating. “Building Specialists” performed building by building surveys, noting key structural and aesthetic issues as well as rating each of the categories listed.   The use of the word “aesthetics” suggested that the program’s goals were intended to extend beyond simply code enforcement and improve things that might suggest blight and neighborhood deterioration.  Structures judged deficient in this category might have missing or mismatched roofing materials, missing or broken window panes, and missing or rotted porch supports, treads, risers or railings.  


After buildings were surveyed, owners were able to apply for federal funding to complete any modifications or repairs. Homeowners were qualified for up to a $3,000 grant to complete repairs on their home, as well as eligible for rehabilitation loans at reduced interest rates.  Members of the Division of Rehabilitation and Conservation department called “Rehabilitation Specialists” helped residents complete applications for the funding.  Though the $3,000 “Section 115 grant” was limited to households that made under $3,000 a year ($20,683 inflation-adjusted to 2013), there were caveats that allowed homeowners above that limit to still get funding. Additionally, the “Section 312 Loan” was available to all building owners, regardless of income, for up to $10,000 for residences and $50,000 for commercial spaces.  Once code violations and estimates for so-called “beautification expenses” had been made and loans and grant money had been secured, financial officers from the department would contact and secure bids from contractors.

The improvement project for Hamlin Park advanced significantly in August 1967, when the Buffalo Planning Board approved $1.2 million for the project. News coverage of the announcement explained the “the total cost of the Hamlin Park project is estimated at $1,223,737, of which $815,824 would be the federal government’s two-thirds share and the $407,913 the city’s share.”  In addition to the home improvements, the entire area would see sewer improvements, tree trimming, new parks, and new playgrounds. The final cost of the project was later estimated at $2.3 million, devoted to the effort to “preserve the value and character of this fine neighborhood.”


After several delays due to resistant residents and absentee landlords, homeowners began making improvements in the final months of 1969, by which point the code enforcement program had been folded into the Federal Model Cities program, becoming synonymous with the larger program in Buffalo as well.  Though the evaluation process, outside of the code violations, was largely subjective and based on the evaluator’s opinion of a building’s appearance, many of the improvements cited in local newspapers included general exterior and interior remodeling, the addition of aluminum siding, and “modernization.”  More specifically, the majority of these projects included partly or fully enclosing open porches (usually to create more living space) and the replacement of deteriorated wood porch elements with wrought iron or steel. 

It seems that modernity was associated with contemporary materials, cleanliness, and the elimination of detail that might be difficult to maintain.  A number of stained-glass windows were also removed, not because they were undesirable but because they were too damaged to repair. In the years between 1969 and 1975, many houses in the district filed building permits for “general repairs,” of the interior and exterior, “window replacement,” “remodeling,” and replace “existing front porch, [with] new posts and railings.” Sometimes these repairs would be accompanied by “as per the Hamlin Park Project,” though the sheer volume of repairs documented in Buffalo’s Permit Office during that time period suggest more projects than the ones noted were prompted by the code enforcement funding.  Approximately 19 percent of the residences in the district (or 292) have enclosed porches today, while 284 (or 18 percent) have replacement porch elements.  Fifteen percent have aluminum siding. 

A publication issued in 1971 by the Buffalo Planning Board served as a guide to understanding why Hamlin Park was chosen. The brochure explained, “what generally became known as Hamlin Park was the first large-scale residential development or subdivision in this part of the country…the great majority of its fine older homes have been well maintained and preserved by their owners. The community, the City, and the Federal Government are cooperating in a massive effort to upgrade the remainder.”  


The code enforcement program utilized in Hamlin Park was consolidated with several other HUD-funded programs (including sewer and health services) under the Model Cities umbrella in 1968. In Buffalo, though the initial code enforcement funding, while separate from Model Cities, came through the same HUD channels, the city made a clear distinction between Hamlin Park and the rest of the city’s urban renewal programs:

The early scheduling of this predominantly nonwhite area was dictated not only because of its position on the blight index, but also because of its strategic location in relation to the overall pattern of blight. Early completion of Hamlin is essential if it is to be maintained a stable area. 

In many ways Hamlin Park was not like the neighborhoods south of it. The middle class nature of the community not only prevented the area from slipping further into disrepair, but also meant it was not in as dire condition as the remainder of the model cities areas. Over 30 percent of the families living in the “Model City” area designated by Buffalo earned less than $3,000 annually, and 7 percent earned under $1,000. In an area of 61,000 people, there was 14 percent unemployment, and 37 percent of the housing stock was substandard.


Jesse Nash became the first Model Cities Association director in 1967. The association was the governing institution of the city’s many Model Cities funded programs, or City Demonstration Agencies (CDAs). Nash’s prerogative was to assist the neighborhoods experiencing the most problems: the Ellicott District, the Fruitbelt, and parts of the Masten neighborhood that bordered Hamlin Park. By engaging communities in smaller neighborhood sections, he hoped to get greater citizen participation. The first boards were made up of about 30 residents and 10 mayor-appointed members, and while Nash butted heads with the common council over self-determination, he was eventually able to secure a great deal of control over Buffalo’s Model City association. 

Among the CDAs sponsored under the Model Cities program that targeted the social ills of these communities were the ECCO Co-operative Food Mart at 300 William Street, which offered lower prices for food, and the Langston Hughes Art center, which helped local artists highlight cultural aspects of the community. Additionally, David Collins, director of the Employment Information Center, enforced a strict policy concerning employee education in the Model Cities program. Individuals who had not obtained a high school diploma were enrolled in an equivalency program, and those who had not attended or completed college were entered into a program through the University at Buffalo to obtain college credit for their work with Model Cities. The 1490 Jefferson Community Service Center opened in October 1971, providing a base of operations for Model Cities programs in the city and supplemented the health and wellness programs already offered at the Clinton Street “Build Academy.”


In all of its forms, Buffalo’s Model Cities program was active between 1966 and 1975. On June 30, 1975, the Buffalo Courier Express reported that as federal funds for the program ran out, programs in the city would continue to shut down. By that point, only four programs remained of the 47 Buffalo boasted at the height of the Model Cities program, which had contributed $18.5 million to inner city revitalization. Though it was ending, the Buffalo Model City Agency was renamed the Division for Demonstration Projects, which was used to oversee programs that had not become self-sustaining over the course of the previous half-decade. One program that was temporarily saved was a bus program that provided free service for the elderly and the handicapped.


Other programs in the city were not so lucky. The Employment Information Center, responsible for securing hundreds of jobs for inner city residents, ended the day the article was released. The article noted a great deal of optimism surrounding the program, as through community meetings in poor neighborhoods had direct input on the distribution of $11.7 million of U.S. Community Development funds. David Echols, acting head of the Division for Demonstration Projects, noted that the program’s real success lay in helping those on public assistance into good jobs, as well as fostering a sense of commitment to maintaining the community. Though many of the programs related to drug prevention, recreation and art, and health and wellness had been phased out over the previous years, Echols estimated that 400 of 800 employees whose positions were funded by the Model City Agency found work in other public agencies or private industries.

You can check out the previous pieces in the series here: Part IPart II, Part IIIPart IVPart VPart VIPart VII, and Part VIII.


Views of Buffalo Ipernity      -     fixBuffalo     -     The Atlantic Cities     -     The Urbanophile

Nov 7, 2013

The History of Hamlin Park Part VIII: Model Cities Program Comes to Buffalo to Remedy the Tragedies of Urban Renewal

Now that Hamlin Park has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places I've decided to do a short series of the history of the neighborhood. This information comes directly from the National Register nomination that Preservation Studios completed. Check back for additional installations in the series in the coming weeks. Stay up to date with all things Hamlin Park by liking the Hamlin Park Historic District on Facebook.


Buffalo’s use of the Model Cites program in Hamlin Park stands out as one example of attempting a holistic approach to urban planning that attempted to combine physical and social planning concepts. As defined in the 1966 act that authorized the program, a model city was “any municipality (city or county) selected to receive planning funds as the first step of a five-year program to improve physical, social, and economic conditions in a large blighted neighborhood. The target area is generally known as the model neighborhood.”  Improvements were not limited to private housing but included “better education, improved health and medical services, increased opportunities for economic development, job training, and better physical surroundings.”  The Buffalo Model Cities Bulletin explained some of the program’s lofty goals:

The Model Cities program seeks to help cities deal more effectively with the broad range of urban problems by giving them the technical and financial assistance to coordinate and concentrate public and private resources in a locally developed program. The unique features of the program are the supplemental grants to give the city greater flexibility in carrying out its program, the promise of a coordinated Federal response to local needs, and the encouragement of a working relationship between city government and residents. The program targets neighborhoods with serious social, physical, and economic problems: In attacking these human and physical problems, these selected cities are expected to use innovative approaches, new techniques, and reach a high degree of coordination of Federal, State, local, and private resources. Accomplishments should serve as ‘models’ to be followed by other cities facing similar problems. 


The program began with an in-depth analysis of the problems affecting each neighborhood. From there, it would be determined what could be initiated in terms of social and physical development programs to help alleviate issues in the neighborhood, particularly areas that were being bypassed by the area economy and its infrastructure. This component of the Model Cities program was essential; unlike other physical development programs, which merely gave areas a temporary facelift, this program was premised on an understanding of the underlying problems of a neighborhood.  By 1967, 200 cities had applied for Model Cities funding, of which 75 were given first round approval, one of which was Buffalo.


In 1972, after the program had been in existence for almost five years, critiques of the Model Cities program began to appear. Judson L. James, writing in Publius, called the program “horribly ambiguous,” centered around vague goals of increased “citizen participation” and providing “delivery of service.” This resulted in a constant shift in exactly how much was expected from “citizen participation,” which could mean anything from driven entirely from within the community to being handled by mayors and governors. Additionally, the goals of the program were so lofty (not to mention enigmatic), that it often surpassed the capabilities of the local governments responsible for enacting the policies. The Model Cities program began as a way to sift through the innumerable, and often inscrutable, existing community development programs, but it quickly became unwieldy and unhelpful itself. 


After his election in 1968, President Nixon attempted to address some of the issues that were already apparent only two years into Model Cities. By passing the act of 1968, Nixon formalized the program by streamlining the relationship between the local community and the offices of mayors and governors. Another key change was classifying Model City funds into four subcategories: urban renewal, social programs, grants for basic water and sewer facilities, and rehabilitation loan programs like the concentrated code enforcement used in Hamlin Park. As James noted, however, one of the goals of the program was to decentralize federal programs. By reconfiguring the programs, with increased emphasis on the state and national level, the program moved in the opposite direction of what was originally intended. 


Robert Aleshire noted several other problems with the program in 1972. His article for the Public Administration Review focused on the crux of the problem with the Model Cities and other poverty programs: power. The goal of these programs, he contested, was to give power to individuals and communities that found themselves relegated to the outskirts of institutional power.  He noted that the involvement of the poor in these programs was a double-edged sword for organizers. If the poor were not involved, then it was the same case of institutional power dictating their lives to them and, more than likely, not even addressing the problems in their community. However, when the poor were involved, the slow pace of bureaucratic operations created frustration and distrust with community members who wanted to see change. Officials who chose to involve the poor in these programs tended to lose standing in those communities regardless of how they acted.


Bennett Harrison picked up the issue of jobs in 1974. His piece, “Ghetto Employment and the Model Cities Program,” used statistical analysis to determine what independent variable contributed to the fact that of the 25,000 jobs created to run the Model Cities program, less than half actually went to members of the communities it was meant to serve. Despite the fact that the law explicitly stated a preference for employing residents of the model neighborhood in all phases of the program,” only 44 percent of all Model Cities positions were held by community members in 1969, a percentage that remained constant in 1971. Harrison, an associate professor at MIT at the time, also used almost 20 independent variables to determine the wage discrepancy  between workers, both resident and non-resident, and the variable with the highest significance was race, often accounting for over $1,000 in wage differences.  According to Harrison’s report, organization members remained skeptical even as officials assured them measures were being taken to promote African Americans in the program.  This was a concern in Buffalo as well, and in October 1968 the Hamlin Park Community Association demanded an explanation from city Urban Renewal officials. One association member asked, “Why do black people always have to be assistants?” 


In Buffalo, city officials relied heavily on federal Urban Renewal funding to achieve their goals. At the center of the city’s efforts were the demolitions of historic structures downtown for large modern buildings and parking lots. The trend began in the Central Business District (CBD), when blocks of Main Street and Delaware Ave were demolished to create towering offices and the required parking for their occupants. The modernization of the downtown reverberated outwards, often with harsh ramifications for the surrounding neighborhoods.   

Humboldt Parkway, before and after

Employees of these new skyscrapers, choosing to experience the American dream of owning their own home made available to them through cheap housing developments, often lived in the suburbs outside of the city. The city planners, acquiescing to the needs of these suburban drivers, encouraged the sale of buildings for demolition and use as parking lots, as well as construction of several major arterials to ease traffic in and out of the city. One of the most famous examples of this was the sacrifice of Humboldt Parkway (part of the Olmsted park and parkway system), which stretched from Delaware Park through the East Side, for the creation of the Scajaquada and Kennsington Expressways. The new six-lane highway significantly altered one of Buffalo’s most important public spaces and created a chasm that divided neighborhoods on either side. 

For many of those neighborhoods on the east side, as well as some of Buffalo’s well-known west-side Italian areas, renewal came at a high price. In the years leading up to the 1960s, Buffalo had shown a remarkable willingness to demolish neighborhoods that were found unsavory, beginning as early as the 1930s with the destruction of the Hooks, an Italian neighborhood that filled the canal side.  Following passage of the Housing Act of 1949, which allowed the use of federal funds for slum clearance, the city began an ambitious project to revitalize the CBD-adjacent Ellicott District. In 1958, six years after the project began, the program had little to show other than several vacant lots for the millions of dollars of federal funding it had received, and by 1966 the U.S. General Accounting Office was investigating the delays and mismanagement of the project.  A second Italian neighborhood came under siege in the 1960s, when the city began buying up properties in the lower-west side in preparation for a large-scale development project.  The latter was eventually scaled down into the complex known as “The Shoreline,” though much of the neighborhood had already been razed.

These projects, while destructive to the character of Buffalo, were not completely unnecessary. As Mark Goldman writes in City on the Edge, “considering that most of the housing units in the city were made of wood and that more than 85 percent of them in 1960 were more than thirty years old, a great deal of the city’s housing stock… was in need of repair.”  Decision makers in Buffalo enacted urban renewal campaigns to raze and rebuild some of the oldest areas in the city, compromising the appearance and identities of historic neighborhoods. An alternative approach would have been to rehabilitate existing structures, similar to the approach taken in Baltimore, but planners and developers of the time did not have a vision of the future that built on the historic fabric of the city.


The Urban Renewal programs of the 1940s and 1950s were designed to target physical manifestations of poverty and disrepair but did little for social ailments, and by the 1960s, the results of race-based inequality resonated throughout Buffalo. The “white flight” from the east side coupled with the construction of the expressways created a segregated city, and many of those communities were struggling with poverty and overcrowding. These issues boiled over in 1967 with riots on the east side south of Hamlin Park that lasted from June 26th through July 1st and resulted in forty injuries, fourteen by gunshot wounds. In the preliminary report from the Store Front Education Information Centers at University of Buffalo, the director wrote:
In viewing the Buffalo riots, it is difficult at most, if not impossible, to pinpoint the initiating spark. If anything, the outburst may be attributed to long periods of frustration. As one young Negro youth explains, “We jus’ tired of bein’ lied to, that’s all.” For a long time the people have remained disgruntled about the poor housing and jobs with no future. In seeking answers, they have been told that poverty programs, city, state and Federal, would help them out of the ghetto. None have worked as yet, and the city continues to make similar idle promises. Promises mean nothing anymore and the people are no longer willing to listen.

Author's note: It's very hard to find good photos during the urban renewal and model cities years in Hamlin Park and most are owned by the history museum. Instead I've opted to use current photos to show how beautiful the neighborhood is currently and how well it survived the urban renewal era.

You can check out the previous pieces in the series here: Part IPart II, Part IIIPart IVPart VPart VI, and Part VII.


Views of Buffalo Ipernity      -     fixBuffalo     -     The Atlantic Cities     -     The Urbanophile

Nov 4, 2013

The Kamman Building is Almost Fully Occupied, Just One Apartment Left

The Kamman Building (755 Seneca Street) in the heart of the Larkin District is nearly full, but there is one apartment left for someone to call home. Bob Stark of Chaintreuil-Jensen-Stark Architects (CJS) rehabilitated the circa-1878 building for his office, apartments, and leasable office space above. Designed by noted architect, F.W. Caulkins the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in order to utilize the historic tax credits for the rehab.


CJS maintains their office on the first floor, complete with a conference room featuring a massive table composed of reclaimed ceiling joists from the building. The second floor is home to two small offices, Ingenious Inc. and White Bicycle, while the third and fourth floors each have two large apartment units that span the length of the building. All the tenants have access to the rear porches, which offers great views of Larkin Square and is the perfect place to enjoy the summer concert series without being stuck in the crowd.


“Ingenious is a high-end website design and development studio that services a very wide array of clients like cultural, industrial, municipal, and educational to name a few,” explained Joe Murphy. “I was aware of the development happening in the Larkin District, but didn’t realized the scale of what had been accomplished. I was instantly attracted to the area and wanted to be a part of the renaissance happening down here.”

This could be your view every day

One of the most attractive aspects of the building for Joe was the mostly open floor plan and plenty of natural light coming into the office. “We needed space that we could make comfortable for ourselves as we spend long hours in the office and we wanted it to be comfortable for our clients when the visit,” he said.


Brian Grunert of White Bicycle was attracted to the Kamman building for many of the same reasons. “As we’ve grown, we’ve also gotten the itch for a change of scenery. The Larkin district has an amazing energy and is experiencing a very similar resurgence to our former location near the medical campus,” explained Brian, “We’re excited to be a part of it.”


White Bicycle is a design studio with a core team of three people and plans to expand to include other experts as their projects require. The team assists people building their company brand through strategy, planning, and the creation of effective communication tools like print, packaging, web design, and others.

If you interested in the last apartment be sure to get in touch with Bob Stark at his office, 716-856-6448. For additional views of the building and the Larkin District, check out my ipernity page here.

Views of Buffalo Ipernity      -     fixBuffalo     -     The Atlantic Cities     -     The Urbanophile

The William Street Sisters Head to the Landfill

Exactly one year ago today, I posted about a pair of buildings on William Street that were a must save in my opinion.  After many attempts to contact the owners and several returned letters that could not be forwarded, the trail went cold on tracking them down. Both of the “William Street Sisters” were demolished last week, adding to the ever-expanding urban prairie of the east side.


Ownership of the buildings has not changed since last year and although both mailing addresses turned up nothing for contacting the owners, someone has been paying the taxes on both buildings as they did not cross the block at the city’s annual In-Rem auction last week.


673 William Street was previously occupied by a fly-by-night storefront church, which looks to have just up and left one day, even leaving behind their church organ (built 1926). Barbara B. Jones of 124 Fulton Street owns 677 William Street and all attempts to contact her came back with a return to sender stamp (built 1913).

This is not the first time a handsome building in need of some serious TLC has had an invisible and neglectful owner and it certainly won’t be the last. In all fairness, 677 William Street was pretty rough with a portion of the first floor collapsing into the basement and some bad masonry issues on the rear. Regardless, both buildings had potential to become something special for a person with vision.


These buildings are a loss just like any other, but represent an all too common problem in Buffalo: an absentee owner and lack luster accountability at City Hall and Housing Court. Since both buildings are privately owned, the likely course of action is for the City of Buffalo to send a bill to each in the hopes they actually pay for the demolition costs.


The city website even admits no being able to collect serious money in demolition bills from an article back in 2007 and the issue has only gotten worse. A similar problem has been happening in Housing Court as well, where millions in fines go unpaid. In the mean time neglectful owners continue to let their buildings fall into disrepair and it costs every one of us in the long run.


This demolition isn’t just about two more pretty buildings that are headed to the landfill; it’s about a broken system that let’s people get away with murder at the expense of taxpayers and our city’s sustainability. This lack of accountability and resources to collect only perpetuates the ability of bad property owners to do as they please and never face the consequences. For additional information about the "vacancy vortex" be sure to check out Bernice Radle's blog by clicking here.


Views of Buffalo Ipernity      -     fixBuffalo     -     The Atlantic Cities     -     The Urbanophile

Oct 21, 2013

Buffalo Paint and Wallpaper Raises the Bar for Quality on Bailey Avenue

Spend just a few minutes in Buffalo Paint and Wallpaper and you know you’ve stumbled upon something special on Bailey Avenue. Located at 2917 Bailey Avenue and formerly Schnitter’s Paint, the company was purchased by Dominic and Laura Fulciniti ten years ago, but only recently had the name changed. Once they had purchased the company, it was important to remain on Bailey Avenue as Dominic got his start at the company over 26 years ago and has been there ever since. With a dedication to staying, Laura was determined to make it the best space along the prominent commercial strip and that’s exactly what she’s done.


Previously the showroom was pretty basic with paint buckets piled about forming rows, but with Laura’s touch the space has been transformed. Their products are not only organized better, but Laura has a created a lounge area to meet with clients and go over their specific needs. Complete with hounds tooth couches, chandelier, and a working fireplace, the lounge is just the place for long-time and new clients alike to feel comfortable and plan improvements for their home.


The lounge also showcases their high-end paint line, Farrow & Ball, which they started carrying this year. “It comes from England and is made the old fashioned way,” explained Laura, “Farrow & Ball has less water, higher quality resign and more natural pigments for a richer finished and almost no VOCs.”

Laura has had several professional painters return with glowing reviews. The high-end line has made its way into several mansions on Nottingham Terrace, Lebrun Road, and outside Buffalo. Laura’s design has been all over Buffalo even in places you may not expect. She worked closely with the owner of Mobile Soles, Melissa Fayson on the design for her company truck.


People are coming from all over the region just for the Farrow & Ball paint, but often return for the high level of personal interaction Laura gives each client. Laura will spend as much time as she needs for a client to feel satisfied about their choices for their project. “I treat them like I would want to be treated,” she said, “If it was my home I would want someone there for me so I would have the best finished room possible, I like to put myself in their shoes to offer them a great experience.”


Buffalo Paint and Wallpaper are also one of the last in stock wallpaper carriers, which is also a huge draw. It’s not all about high-end and expensive though, they cater to budget minded clients as well with their own line of paint. They also offer high-end fabric and furniture at close out prices for every budget.


The changes at the store have been well received by neighbors who are astounded by the improvements in the showroom and often use the store as an example of what they want Bailey Avenue to strive for as it continues to improve.

Next time you’re planning a painting or remodeling project for your home, be sure to skip Home Depot or Lowe’s and head straight to Bailey Avenue. Laura will be there with her glowing smile and offers a personal touch than the boring big box stores can’t come close to replicating. In my opinion, Laura is like the Prish of Bailey Avenue, but with paint instead of coffee. She has a wonderful vision for Bailey Avenue and is inspiriing others to invest and elevate the standards along the street.


Views of Buffalo Ipernity      -     fixBuffalo     -     The Atlantic Cities     -     The Urbanophile

Oct 17, 2013

University Heights Tool Library Returns for Round Two at the Uptown Theater

A second clean up has been scheduled at the Uptown Theater (3163 Bailey Avenue) by the University Heights Tool Library for this upcoming Saturday, October 19th from 10am to 2pm.

Sprucing up the marquee at the previous clean up. Image courtesy of University Heights Tool Library
The first clean up was a great success in August, drawing kids from the neighborhood and others from all over the region. Tools and supplies will be provided, just bring yourself and a willingness to work. The clean up is being co-sponsered by the Bailey Avenue Association as efforts continue along the commercial corridor to improve and build on their existing assets.

Views of Buffalo Ipernity      -     fixBuffalo     -     The Atlantic Cities     -     The Urbanophile

Oct 16, 2013

Huge Strides Made in Taming Wildroot Over the Weekend

Over the weekend about a dozen people did some serious work at the Wildroot building as part of a BYP clean up event. Leading the charge to secure the building before winter and for future development, Mark Paradowski assigned tasks to the volunteers around the 100,000 square foot complex.  Although the event was only slated for four hours, most people stayed over six hours for additional work. You can check out before and after photos on the Wildroot Buffalo Facebook page here.

The overgrown and wild courtyard was tamed as plants and debris were uprooted and await removal from the site in the near future. The majority of the first floor windows on the north side of the building that had been left open have now been completely sealed to keep out vandals and the elements. Several window openings were boarded and although not all of them were addressed, there will be additional work before the snow flies to get them sealed up.

Due to the success of the fundraiser and donations that continued after the clean up, Mark has extended the online campaign in order to purchase additional materials for the winterization project, which you can see here. The new project goal is $1000 and Mark is already three quarters of the way there after $250 was added to the campaign, post clean up.

“Since we continued to get funding beyond our initial goal, we’ve decided to extend the campaign so we can get additional work done which will go a long way in securing the building for future development,” says Paradowski. “I’m very thankful for the people that came out to help on Saturday and those that made donations, big and small. They truly made a positive impact for the future of this east side landmark. A special thanks goes to Chris Ziolkowski of Zee’s Property Services. Chris works professionally in construction and has been present on many BYP clean ups and not only donates his skills, but often kicks in additional funds for more supplies or food for the volunteers.”

The majority of Wildroot is the former factory building to the rear, which makes up 80,000 of the 100,000 square feet. Similar to many rehabilitated reinforced concrete factory buildings, the open floor plates and high ceilings lends itself to almost any new use. Wildroot has the potential to be an incredible catalyst for this part of the east side. It could be a business incubator, brewery, or could replicate the model at the Foundry, but include space for the artists to live all in the same place. It could even be all three of those things. The possibilities for Wildroot are endless and these clean up efforts are first steps for a great future.

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