Feb 26, 2013

Two Rehabbed Properties on North Street Ready for Tenants

Kissling Interests have largely completed two large rehabilitation projects on North Street, a beautiful mansion at 249 North Street and the Ambassador apartment building at 175 North Street, both buildings are located in the Allentown Historic District. Since both buildings are contributing structures in the district, they were completed utilizing the Historic Tax Credit program.


249 North Street was originally built as a single family home, but is now converted into multiple apartments all while maintaining the general feeling and characteristics of the original layout. The building is totally rented with the exception of one apartment on the top floor. It features modern finishes and a large rear patio that is shared with the neighboring unit. The views of North Street are fantastic and the lofted bedroom space adds some unique charm with the exposed rafters above.


The Ambassador building has 115 apartments, all of which have been rehabilitated or nearing the end of construction. There are still many apartments available for rent and options include a studio (325 sq. ft.), 1 bedroom (652 sq. ft.), and a 2 bedroom (848 sq. ft.). The studio apartments range from $625 to $700, the 1 bedrooms go for $825 to $1050, and the 2 bedroom units range from $1100 to $1225 per month. Rent includes gas, heat, water, and garbage. Off-street parking is available for $50 per month, per spot.


The two rehabbed buildings will go a long way in elevating the profile of North Street and the Allentown neighborhood. Although the mansion at 249 North has been divided, the interior remains largely intact and has retained much of its original charm. One feature to note is the impressive newel post of the grand staircase, which is carved entirely from one piece of wood and intricately detailed. The greatest transformation is the Ambassador, which has been completely updated from top to bottom and is sure to attract a good clientele. Storage units are available in the basement as well as an updated laundry room with television and wireless internet.


Carmina Wood Morris did the Historic Preservation Certification Applications for 249 North and 175 North.  Tommaso Briatico did design work on 249 North and L2K Design did the interior design work for 175 North. Kissling is planning a full renovation of its brick and terra cotta mansion located next to the Ambassador at 173 North.  Carmina Wood Morris will be doing the tax credit and architectural design work on that new project.

For additional photos of both properties, check out my Flickr page here.
Get Connected: Kissling Interests, 716-853-2787

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Feb 21, 2013

Bethlehem Steel Demolition Halted Due to Illegally Issued Demo Permit

The Campaign for Greater Buffalo successfully filed an Article 78 today, which placed a temporary restraining order on the demolition of the Bethlehem Steel Administration Building. This petition argues that the City of Lackawanna issued the demolition permit to Gateway Trade Center without performing environmental review as required by the NYS Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR).
Rear of the Admin Building, before the Chemistry Building Demo (Image courtesy of David Torke, fixBuffalo)
As a result, the demolition permit issued was done so illegally and is therefore null and void. The Campaign is seeking a permanent injunction on the demolition of the building until full compliance with SEQR is demonstrated. A hearing is scheduled before Hon. James H. Dillon for Wednesday, February 27th at 9:30 a.m.

Rear of the Admin Building, after the Chemistry Building Demo (Image courtesy of David Torke, fixBuffalo)
“SEQR mandates all agencies of government to prepare an ‘Environmental Impact Statement on any action they propose or approve which may have a significant effect on the environment.’ Even actions which do not require a full Impact Statement, still require careful environmental review and findings,” says Richard Berger, Esq., a local attorney representing The Campaign, “It appears that none was carried out in this instance. We hope that our filing today will halt the demolition of the Administration Building and lead to its ultimate restoration and reuse.”

Image courtesy of David Torke, fixBuffalo
“The City and Gateway should make every attempt to honor workers who spent much of their lives at Bethlehem Steel. Instead, they’re doing all they can to destroy our heritage, and with it the potential that ‘Old North’ has to create jobs and bring people to the shore of Lake Erie. I for one am relieved that there is an engaged group of citizens continuing to fight for justice, and I am proud to stand with them,” said Romaine Lillis, Lackawanna resident and longtime member of the Lackawanna Historical Society.

Demo - Stopped !
Signed Order from the Judge
There is an open lawsuit filed by Lackawanna Industrial Heritage Group (LIHG), heard on February 13, 2013 in Lackawanna City Court, regarding the discovery of a previously withheld structural engineering report concluding that the building is structurally sound and of no immediate danger of collapse, as the City of Lackawanna contends. Hon. Judge Marrano reserved judgment in the case but a verdict is expected soon.

LIHG has stated that they will cooperate with The Campaign for Greater Buffalo in any way needed.

For more information and to stay informed, check out the I’m Steel Standing website. Contact David Torke (fixBuffalo), founding LIHG Member: 716-602-5440 or davidtorke@gmail.com. For additional photos of the building check out David’s Flickr page by clicking here.

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Feb 18, 2013

BYP Uses Fundraiser Money to Secure Historic East Side Theater

Buffalo’s Young Preservationists (BYP) came together on Sunday, February 17th to seal and secure a historic east side movie theater, the Sattler Theater at 512 Broadway. Many people were on hand swinging hammers and framing openings to secure the building envelope. Money for the materials came from a fundraiser BYP held in December to board up a building in need. BYP partnered with the owners, Western New York Minority Media Professionals in order to secure the building from vandals and provide some weatherization.
WNYMMP purchased the building from a negligent owner and saved it from demolition in 2008. They are currently fundraising for a full restoration to use the theater as multi-purpose community building for films, theatrical productions, concerts, and more.


The Sattler Theatre was built in 1914 by prominent Buffalo retailer, John G. Sattler and replaced a wood framed theater that previously occupied the site. It was designed by local architect, Henry L. Spann who designed many other Buffalo theaters along with his brother William T. Spann. The beautifully detailed terra cotta fa├žade remains intact and in good condition. Although elements of the interior have deteriorated due to water infiltration a large amount of original integrity remains.

Before removing the wall
After the wall comes down

It’s very important to make sure this building is secured and on the path to restoration. The Sattler Theatre is the most intact east side neighborhood theater and still has a very bright future. During the 20th century there were over one hundred and fifty theaters in Buffalo and only a handful remain, many of which have been altered beyond recognition. In my free time, I'm researching the theater’s history to apply for National Register listing, which would help the owners to apply for grants to aid the restoration.

ST-9183More than twenty people came out to lend a hand for over seven hours in the building. Chris Ziolkowski of Zee’s Property Services generously offered his time and equipment to pump out the flooded basement, which took the full seven hours. A makeshift wall that separated the balcony from the theater was removed to reopen the space as it was historically. All the materials needed to board up the building cost less than $350. Additional photos of the theater and the work completed yesterday are available by following the link here.
Unsecured opening before
Newly secured opening after

For more information about the theater please contact me at mike.j.puma@gmail.com

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Feb 12, 2013

Broadway-Fillmore Neighborhood Selected for EPA Assistance for Sustainable Growth Through the ‘Building Blocks’ Program

A new coalition has recently formed in the Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood, the Fillmore Corridor Neighborhood Coalition (FCNC). It is one of forty-three communities in twenty-seven states that have been designated to receive technical assistance from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for pursuing sustainable growth that encourages economic development while providing a safeguard for health and the environment.

EPA staff and national experts will converge to conduct one to two day workshops that focus on using the Sustaining Equitable Development tool. The FCNC requested the help in order to identify the most effective tools and strategies for housing affordability and consensus within the community to move the neighborhood forward.


The goal of this tool is to aid the local government, partner organizations, and community members. It will function in two ways; to better understand the challenges and opportunities associated with neighborhood change and identify strategies to manage change and support community goals around housing, culture, local businesses, and jobs. The path to success starts with a self-assessment, which will identify the goals of the communities and explore appropriate strategies considering the condition of the community. Then a set of “next steps” can begin to be formulated to address specific community needs.


John D. Murphy, executive director of Broadway-Fillmore Neighborhood Housing Services submitted the request for technical assistance on behalf of the FCNC. “I’m delighted the Fillmore Corridor was selected as a site for this Technical Assistance award. Buffalo’s near east side has so many challenges with population loss, vacancy, and under-investment, that the Building Blocks program will allow our agency to directly involve neighborhood residents in developing ‘next steps’ strategies in revitalizing the length of Fillmore taking the energy and investment in the Larkin District, and linking it along the length of Fillmore Avenue to the significant investment in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Park area.”


Paul Harris, president of the South Fillmore Block Club (SFBC) and Fillmore resident stated, “We hope we’ve created a new model of success with the collaboration of community groups and organizations, non-profits like Broadway-Fillmore NHS and Martin Luther King, Jr. CDC, Daemen College and the University of Buffalo as academic partners, the urban farming community, the Central Terminal, and the Broadway Market as examples of potentially dynamic community assets, and by working together along with the help from foundations and local government, we can bring new life, community empowerment, and investment to this targeted revitalization strategy area on Buffalo’s near east side.”

For additional information on the Building Blocks program, click here. For additional photos of the Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood from my collection, click here.

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Feb 7, 2013

Uncovered Structural Engineering Report Declares Bethlehem Steel Administration Building Structurally Sound

The fight is far from over in Lackawanna to save the Bethlehem Steel Administration building. Although demolition at the rear of the building started two weeks ago, it has been halted for the last six days for unknown reasons. So far only the small chemistry lab, which was a later addition, has been demolished. The remainder of the structure remains standing.
Photo credit: David Torke, fixBuffalo
New evidence has come to light that the building is in fact structurally sound despite the consistent information to the contrary by the owners of the building, Gateway Trade Center and the mayor of Lackawanna, Mayor Geoffrey Szymanski. Both have insisted that structural and engineering reports for the building have deemed it structurally unsound.
Demo - Day 1
Photo credit: David Torke, fixBuffalo
This independent report was withheld from the courts by the City of Lackawanna and the Gateway Trade Center owner, Steven Detwiler. The truth has been revealed thanks to the perseverance of members in the Lackawanna Industrial Heritage Group (LIHG), Meagan Baco, David Torke, Lesley Horowitz, and Dana Saylor. Additionally, they received help from two attorneys who are new to Buffalo, Michael Raleigh and Paul Fusco-Gessick. The structural report was obtained by filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIL) request. 

The full structural report that was completed by Klepper, Hahn, & Hyatt on August 3, 2012 reveals a different story than the owners and the mayor have been peddling; the building is in fact, structurally sound. To read the full report, click here.
Photo credit: David Torke, fixBuffalo
The report details the existing condition of the building and notes the limitations of the study, but ultimately concluded, "We believe the overall building structure to be sound and not at imminent risk of collapse at this time. The collapsing ceilings and abundance of debris observed in the building gives a false illusion of the floors collapsing." It went on to say, "the steel beams have surface rust however we did not observe major scaling or failure of the major structural elements" and "we did not observe large areas of the floor or roof structure that appeared to be on the verge of collapse." Once again, the full report can be read by clicking here.

While there were two other engineering reports completed that claim the building is not structurally sound, this report is the only one where the consultants were allowed inside the building for their review, giving them the most comprehensive look at the structure that anyone has had thus far.

With this new information in hand, the LIHG (plaintiff) has brought a lawsuit against the owner at Gateway Trade Center, Steven Detweiler (defendant) to halt all demolition until an investigation can take place.
Bethlehem Steel North Office Building - c 1903
Photo credit: David Torke, fixBuffalo
I've taken the liberty of assembling the best quotes from Mayor Szymanski that illustrate his ignorance and lack of foresight with this grand cathedral of industry:

“It’s time to move on. I think that building is a prime representation of this entire region. It used to be beautiful, it used to be full of work, and now it’s abandoned, unsafe, unused, unwanted and it’s time we got more progressive. Bring down that building, bring down the silos and bring down the grain elevators, and let’s get this city moving,” Szymanski said.

Told that the City of Buffalo was beginning to find new uses for its grain elevators, Szymanski answered, “That’s why Buffalo looks like it does.”

He also said he didn’t believe a building abandoned for about 30 years and without heat could come back, noting that two structural engineering reports cast doubt on the building’s future.

“That building has nothing but sentimental value,” Szymanski said.

Judge lifts stay on demolition, -Buffalo News 11/27/12

"Pittsburgh adjusted, Cleveland adjusted. Buffalo has not and if we don't start making moves and start getting rid of stuff that is unusable, than we are going to continue to stay where we're at, which is nowhere."

“I am tired of hearing about our glorious past. I think preservation societies are only trying to preserve what once was as opposed to moving our region in a positive direction.”
          Slated demolition of landmark delayed, -WIVB 5/22/12

The video below is worth a repost and offers a glimpse at what could have been and could still be if Lackawanna had a forward-thinking mayor. Video courtesy of WGRZ 11/15/12 "Two Communities, Two Fates for Former Bethlehem Steel Sites"

For additional information about the demolition and previous attempts to halt it, check out an article here and here from fixBuffalo. Also,  be sure to check out the I'm Steel Standing website for more updates and history.

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Feb 5, 2013

New Tenants at Larkin Center of Commerce Leave the Suburbs in Favor of the City

The sixth floor of the Larkin Center of Commerce (701 Seneca Street) is filling up quickly with new tenants as ongoing redevelopment efforts continue. In the last year the building has welcomed three new companies that have relocated from the suburbs.

The certified public accounting firm (CPA) of Schunk, Wilson, & Company has returned to Buffalo this year after spending more than thirty years in Amherst. Originally located in the City, the firm left like many other companies for the suburbs in the 1970s. The firm was founded in 1966 and consistently ranks in the top 25 WNY CPA firms in Business First. They are settling in nicely to their new space as employees continue to make small aesthetic touches like recovering cubicle walls with new patterned fabric.
Another newer tenant of the sixth floor is the Strauss Group, which has moved from Williamsville about one year ago. The company is an executive search consultant that is, “a distinctive blend of pure entrepreneurial energy with the underpinnings of corporate structure” and “offers executive search as well as contract staffing solutions.”
Finally, Worldwide Express has been in their new space for eight months after moving in from Williamsville. The company has additional offices in Rochester, Syracuse, Tulsa and Pittsburgh to name a few. Worldwide Express has a partnership with UPS that enables them to offer light package services for domestic and international shipping. They also specialize in freight shipping and offer “domestic and international air freight services through over 30 regional, national, and global carriers.”
A common factor of these groups moving to the City of Buffalo is obviously the building, but also the emerging urban node that is the Larkin District. These three groups moving back/to Buffalo represent a growing trend to return to an urban setting. Slowly but surely, more employers are vacating large, suburban, one-story office parks in favor of spaces in emerging urban corridors. The continued renovation at 701 Seneca is another great example in Buffalo of repurposing our rich historic assets and illustrates the ongoing efforts of revitalizing the communities of our city. 

For additional photos of the progress at the Larkin Center of Commerce and the Larkin District, click here

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