Apr 17, 2013

FREE: Mid-19th Century Commercial Building, Needs Some Love

This handsome commercial building at 363 Genesee Street (google map) has a lot of its original integrity, but it has certainly seen better days. The next few weeks are crucial to determining if it will join others in the landfill or if it will be saved and rehabilitated. 


J. Gerlach likely constructed it in the late 1860s since he was purchasing plots on Genesee near Hickory in the mid 1850s, including the parcel on which this building is located. The Gerlach family members first appear at the address in 1868 and given the historic development of the area, that year seems appropriate for its construction. I have not researched its early uses or occupants, but most recently it was a print shop for Ernst Landes. His partner, Donald Kroger, took ownership of the building in 1956 and he later sold it to the current owners in 1984. The current owners are elderly and unfortunately have been unable to maintain the property in recent years due to medical complications.


The building is being dragged into housing court in an attempt to force demolition, but there is an opportunity here for someone who would be up to the task. I have been in contact with the owners and their attorney for a few months now and the owners are willing to give the building away for FREE to anyone who wants it and plans to rehabilitate it.


Original elements remain on the exterior and interior of the building in fair condition. The exterior retains the original cast iron storefront columns, recessed entrance, and arch top sash windows. An elegant curving staircase provides access to all the floors and features finely turned banisters. The first floor is commercial storefront space and the original display shelves remain under the brick infill that was added in the 1980s.


The upper floors are flats and surprisingly have not been divided or altered over the years. Typically with a building of this age the apartments were often remodeled beyond recognition and chopped up as a rooming house. This building somehow managed to escape that period unscathed and a lot of original elements remain in the upper floors. Window casings, doors and door moldings and some nice chair rail remain intact, which greatly adds to the original character and feel of the building.


While all of those original elements are great, the building has some large and immediate needs. The roof has deteriorated in the front and the rear causing some soft spots in the front and some collapse in the rear portion. The center of the building is fairly solid and the deterioration in the front could likely be fixed. I went through the building with a contractor who estimated the building would need somewhere between $50k to $100k for masonry repairs and roof repair. 
This is the worst of the damage to the rear of the building

The image above and below shows the extent of the floor collapse in the rear portion of the building and while it may frighten off a potential owner, it also provides a great opportunity. Rather than restore the floors, you could to install a horizontal beam supported by two columns at each floor and the missing section could remain open as an interior atrium. A simple railing at each floor would ensure someone would not just walk off. I've seen it done in a few of the projects I've been involved with in the past and they make quite a statement.

If you have an interest in this historic building please get in touch with me as soon as possible at mike.j.puma@gmail.com. Although it does require some serious investment, the fact that the owners are willing to give it away to anyone who wants it certainly helps. For additional photos on the interior and exterior check out my Flickr page by clicking here.  
This is the view of downtown from the front of the building and quite a vista for someone to enjoy if a new owner can be found who is up to the task

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


  1. That last picture of Genesee St heading into Downtown also says that there are plenty of other buildings in the neighborhood that are rehab candidates too

    1. It certainly does! They just tore down two on the left in the last year. I'll be doing my best to get in touch with other owners along this stretch to see if they have an interest in selling. Genesee can be a great street once again!

  2. Lower Genesee Street was chock ful of old brick buildings twenty years ago. What a shame.