Jan 24, 2013

Bethlehem Steel Demolition Begun: Citizens Gather at "Cathedral of Industry", Protest Failure of Leadership, Lost Opportunity

The following comes from Dana Saylor-Furman with the Lackawanna Industrial Heritage Group

The 1901 Beaux Arts-style Lackawanna Iron and Steel Company Administration Building (later known as the Bethlehem Steel Administration Building) is currently falling to the wrecking ball, despite the efforts of local citizens who have spoken out for its adaptive reuse. The Lackawanna Industrial Heritage Group (LIHG) has learned that Gateway Trade TURNED DOWN several offers of developers to take control of the property, after allowing them to tour the site. Mayor Geoffrey Szymanski refused to listen to the concerns of local citizens, from whom over 600 petition signatures were gathered. 
He could have rescinded the City of Lackawanna's demolition order at any time, but instead, he maintained his entrenched position though the structure poses no threat to public safety. The building is eligible for both the State and National Registers of Historic Places, and was recently nominated as a “National Treasure” by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. LIHG members and the public will gather at the site to document this needless destruction, carried out by Zoladz Contracting and others.
Since the city has no preservation ordinance, though, the fate of the building rests solely in the mayor's hands. Recently, he declared in The Buffalo News, "it’s time we got more progressive. Bring down that building." LIHG sees the mayor's actions as anything but progressive, considering the lost potential this demolition signifies. It has been proven that preservation activities promote economic development, vitality, and sustainable urban growth. The young, educated people moving into Western New York and other historic areas have been shown to do so because of the wealth of history, unique architecture, low cost of living and heritage tourism this region offers.
Image courtesy of Buffalo News photographer: John Hickey
"It is these attitudes that have caused Lackawanna to decline and make it all the more difficult for the city to ever rise up again," says Danielle Huber, chair of the LIHG. "We should be building on our strengths, not wiping them out." Dana Saylor, historian and member of Buffalo's Young Preservationists agreed, saying, “Adaptive reuse was economically feasible and would have been an excellent way to tie in all the waterfront investment happening along Lake Erie. Now, the area will suffer from the loss of potential that preservation activities would have brought to this site. Interesting redeveloped places like the Hotel@Lafayette and Steel Stacks in Bethlehem, P.A. are a draw!”
1980s photo of the administration building
The Campaign for Greater Buffalo advised and assisted LIHG along the way, with Executive Director Tim Tielman, who said “Without a preservation ordinance in place, Lackawanna will continue to demolish its historic landmarks under the short-sighted policies of its government. The City must move to become a Certified Local Government, and institute a preservation board so what is happening to Bethlehem Steel, and what happened to St. Barbara's, will not befall other important places.”
Citizens are encouraged to contact the Mayor of Lackawanna's office, and the building owners: Gateway Trade, get involved in future preservation activism, and consider a contribution to a local preservation organization of their choice. Members of the public, especially former employees of the company, are invited to witness the demolition this week, and speak out.

Quick Facts:
1899: Lackawanna Iron & Steel Co. began moving from Scranton, PA to Stony Point, NY in the Town of West Seneca
1900: Lansing C. Holden, AIA member, drew architectural plans for Administration Building
1901: Administration Building completed including rear laboratory, company town launched
1909: City of Lackawanna incorporated
1910: South wing in rear added
1919: North wing and northern 1/3 addition to facade added (approximately)
1922: Bethlehem Steel buys out Lackawanna Iron & Steel
1982: Bethlehem Steel closes Lackawanna plant
1983: Richard & Patricia Garman of R&P Oak Hill Construction purchase complex as “Gateway Trade”
2000: New Enterprise Stone & Lime in P.A./Detwiler family buy out Gateway Trade
2002: Coke production ceased at the site

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Community Meeting and Fundraiser for the Future of Trico #1 Next Wednesday

The future of Trico Plant #1 will be discussed over some great drinks next Wednesday, January 30th from 6pm to 9pm at the Pan Am Brewery in the Hotel Lafayette. An event called, “Cheers for Trico”, is a community meeting and fundraiser discussing the possible future of the Trico Plant at Goodell and Washington Streets. The event is being co-hosted by Buffalo’s Young Preservationists, the Preservation Roundtable, and Preservation Buffalo Niagara.


Last year the Preservation Roundtable, a community-based member group comprised of real estate industry professionals, concerned citizens and community volunteers, announced that they would be continuing the investigation to find an appropriate adaptive reuse for the historic Trico Building.

The group served in a minor advisory role in the production of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus’s, “Trico Complex Redevelopment Feasibility Study.” This feasibility study was released late last fall. Preservation Roundtable member Jason Wilson commended the BNMC for their effort but feels that a further investigation is required. “We are extremely appreciative of their study which will provide us with an excellent foundation for our investigation moving forward,” says Wilson. “But BNMC’s current proposed plan is ineligible for historic tax credits which places the future reuse of the entire complex at risk. There is a better alternative out there.”

Rocco Termini also served as a member of the Preservation Roundtable and has echoed Wilson’s comments about the need for a more comprehensive study for the reuse of Trico. Termini went on to say, “If I would have listened to every marketing study ever produced without further investigation then I would have never started a project...the entire Trico Building has a future.”


The Preservation Roundtable’s investigation will have a larger scope than the previous study by exploring creative design solutions, specific market opportunities and potential economic incentives that were not originally identified.

Cheers for Trico will begin with a community meeting from 6pm – 7pm. Local artist and historian Dana L. Saylor-Furman will examine the importance of the Trico Building to our local history. Rocco Termini and others will be leading the conversation about the potential for reuse of the National Register-listed daylight factory.

The public will have an opportunity to voice their opinion about what they’d like to see happen at Trico. Following the community meeting, a fundraiser will be held from 7pm – 9pm to collect funds to investigate an alternative adaptive reuse proposal. The event is free and open to the public.

You can RSVP on Facebook, by clicking here.

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Jan 21, 2013

Buffalo Can Learn from Rochester’s Monroe Avenue

While on a recent trip to Rochester for some work projects, I had some time to kill between meetings and took a stroll down a few blocks of Monroe Avenue. The street reminded me of a mash up between Hertel Avenue and the possible future of Grant Street. There’s a nice array of different architectural styles, it’s relatively walkable, and a lot of the newer infill is urban-friendly. That means it’s “built to the curb”, has parking to the side or the rear, and prioritizes the pedestrian over the automobile.

Monroe Avenue is a great street for Buffalo to take some cues from as commercial corridors like Connecticut Street, Jefferson & Bailey Avenues, and Grant Street begin to come back. For example, there were several corporate chains that occupied buildings on Monroe, but on a few of them were in new builds. A historic Italian villa style home is now a small Starbucks, Subway has taken up half of a typical early 20th century commercial block, Rent-A-Center occupies an Italianate commercial building with a mid-century storefront remodeling, and Pizza Hut made its home in an old standalone storefront building.

Although the new Rite-Aid wasn’t very architecturally exciting, the parking was at the back, pedestrian access from the sidewalk was great, and the storefront windows are not obscured by shelving or signs. The building maintains the same streetwall that other buildings on the block have and the scale is appropriate given its context. The main mass of the building (right of the entry) even tries to have some historic references with the projecting parapet, simple cornice, and fenestration pattern; they actually tried, which is something Buffalo rarely gets with new builds.

Monroe Avenue is a good example of reusing the existing historic assets and adding new buildings that work at the pedestrian level. Next time you’re in Rochester take a walk down Monroe and if you can’t wait, Google Streetview will have to do. The good stretch of Monroe lasts about nine blocks between the 490 Highway and Meigs Street, northwest of Meigs things start to look more suburban and less pedestrian friendly.

This is the type of thing that the Green Code can offer the people of Buffalo once finalized and implemented. We can finally have commercial corridors that represent walkable and sustainable communities. We’ll have buildings built to the curb to engage pedestrians, parking will be hidden to the back or sides, and existing historic buildings will continue to play host to new uses. The end result is a community we can all be proud of and that effectively mixes historic buildings and new infill to create unique and interesting neighborhoods.

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Jan 9, 2013

Buffalo Photos From the 1970s and 1980s

It’s always great when old photos of Buffalo turn up, especially in large quantities. While recently going through old family albums I came across about 75 of my dad’s photographs of the City during the 1970’s and 1980s. All of them have been scanned and can be viewed here.


Finding those old photos reminded me of another cache of vintage Buffalo pictures I had yet to upload. I have organized over 300 photos of Buffalo from the same time period, which can be viewed here. They come courtesy of the City Hall archives. I’d imagine someone from the planning department was assigned to document various buildings throughout the city after and during the urban renewal era. You’ll notice there are a bunch of photos of downtown buildings long since gone and/or replaced with new structures.

1169 Lovejoy II

Many of the buildings between both albums have been saved and repurposed for a new life. Unfortunately, a lot of them have disappeared. It’s always nice to remember how far we have come in recent years and the good work of early preservationists who recognized the importance of our unique and beautiful built environment.

575 Main (Washington) II


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Jan 8, 2013

Residents Frustrated at Lack of Response for Vandalism and Trespassing at Episcopal Church Home Property

Residents in the Columbus Park/Prospect Hill Neighborhood have made repeated attempts to notify officials that the historic, landmarked Episcopal Church Home is unsecured and being vandalized. The residents remain frustrated as attempts to have the issue resolved through housing court, the 311 call center, and a direct appeal to the owner, Episcopal Church Home Affiliates, have gone unanswered.


Property owners in the adjacent neighborhood have legitimate concerns for the security and safety of the seven-acre site in the shadow of the Peace Bridge, including the beautiful Hutchinson Chapel. The entire property has been slated for demolition in favor of the controversial expansion of the bridge plaza.


Entirely fed up with the lack of response, a group of concerned neighbors will be personally securing the grounds today at 5:00 PM, with hardware and materials purchased by area residents. Two large gates have had the locks clipped and remain totally open, allowing for easy access to the site.

Peterjoe Certo, a dedicated resident, said, “The owners and officials responsible for this property may not care about or even tacitly approve the slow erosion of this important neighborhood anchor. So, if they are unwilling to act to secure the property, we’ll do it for them.”


Once the residents have secured the gates, the keys to the new locks will be turned over to Judge Carney in housing court who presided over this issue last year.

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Jan 7, 2013

Lake Hotel Project Moving Along

Work is well underway at the Lake Hotel (201 W. Huron Street) as the building is readied for eight upscale apartments. The building is located in the West Village historic district and the project is utilizing historic tax credits for the rehabilitation work. Kissling Interests hired the experienced firm of Carmina Wood Morris architects, with Peyton Barlow serving as general contractor.


The exterior of the building has improved significantly from last year as new windows have been installed, some pointing work has been completed, and details missing have been replicated by Buffalo Plastering and Architectural Casting.


Four apartments are planned for the first floor; one is a one bedroom and the remaining three are two-level, two bedroom units. The second and third floor each have two, two bedroom apartments. The fire escape at the rear of the property will be reused as a balcony for the tenants. There is a great interior light court, a garden-level storage and laundry room. Rents are expected to be in the $1,500 range.


A permit was filed for the building in 1896 by William M. Savage and its earliest known name was the Darrow Apartments (1942). The building was known as the Delmar Hotel from around 1948 to 1985, when the name was changed to the Lake Hotel as it remained until it was vacated.


For more photos of the progress, check out my set on Flickr

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