Mar 15, 2014

New Fruit Belt Market Would Raise the Bar for the East Side and Raze a Historic Home

The Fruit Belt neighborhood on Buffalo’s east side may soon have a great new addition with the proposed Sweet Pea market for a vacant lot on the corner of High and Maple Streets (google map).
Sweet Pea Rendering

Rev. Michael Chapman of St. John Baptist Church is heading the proposal and is well known for his other development projects in the neighborhood. Project architect, Kevin Connors of eco_logic studios explains, “The market is meant to be a place where people will connect; that prioritizes locally grown and produced products for the immediate neighborhood and Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.”

Sweet Pea Site Plan

This market rivals anything else currently on the east side of a similar fashion and would really raise the bar for new buildings in the surrounding area. It’s sited appropriately for a city corner location, parking is the to the side and rear, it has a green roof to reduce runoff, and it offers outdoor dining options in the front and a second floor patio. The downside to the proposal is the historic home standing in the way of the new parking lot and rehabilitation is not currently being pursued. 


The Italianate home at 204 High Street was probably built around 1870 and was linked to the attached property at 291 Maple Street with a small addition sometime before 1890. Its oldest known owner was a doctor, JG Meidenbaur and is listed as owning the home in 1872 and taught at Buffalo’s College of Pharmacy. Several subsequent owners also continued to use the home as a residence and office for their medical practices including the Morgan family.


This home has been owned by the City of Buffalo since 2005 and has continued to deteriorate. Thankfully, much of the original woodwork and details of the interior remain regardless of the neglect. The following interior photos come from 2011.


204 High Street is within the proposed footprint for the new parking lot and pick-up lane for the market, but with some slight alterations it may still have a chance to be rehabbed. “I have advised the owner that there is flexibility with the site plan to accommodate the High Street structure at 204 as long as the rear portion could be demolished for access onto Maple,” said Connors. “I believe this to be an important project for activating High Street. It’s a large investment that would not be looking to coexist with a vacant structure, but I think there is win-win potential there if 204 can attract a developer.”


The building’s historic significance was investigated in 2011 and a National Register eligibility form was filed with the State Historic Preservation, which confirmed it was eligible for listing. Click here for a link to the determination.


“Preservation Buffalo Niagara has received a lot of feedback from residents in the Fruit Belt neighborhood concerned with the fate of the historic home,” said Tom Yots, executive director of PBN. “As a result, PBN is supporting a local landmark nomination in order to give those residents a voice in its future and hope for a resolution that respects neighborhood residents and their wishes while still encouraging future developments that support the medical campus and surrounding community. Of course we would like to see the building restored and reused and residents we've talked to seem to echo this sentiment. It is a neighborhood landmark, representative of the area's early development and we would like to reach out and work with anyone that is willing to reuse the structure,” continued Christina Lincoln, director of operations at PBN.

Image from the 1979 inventory survey form

There still may be some hope for the home to remain in full or in part, but it’s too early to call. Here’s hoping PBN can find success working with the neighborhood, the City of Buffalo, and Rev. Chapman. Check back for updates as the situations evolves.

UPDATE: I just got some additional information from St. John Baptist Fruit Belt Development Corp regarding the projectThe anticipated opening for the new market is January 2015, they will be getting $150,000 from Erie County for financing, and 60% minority hiring will be part of the St. John Baptist Leadership & Business Academy for African American males and a program with the Buffalo Board of Education. Once completed, the market will be managed by a resident of the Fruit Belt neighborhood. 
Views of Buffalo Ipernity      -     fixBuffalo     -     The Atlantic Cities     -     The Urbanophile
NTHP Blog     -     Congress for New Urbanism     -     Buffalo Historic Districts


  1. Revise the design. Incorporate the historic home into the plan and over the long term the market will be more interesting as a place and more compelling as a destination to shop. Significantly more interesting, as places with layers of history are always more of a draw over time than one-off developments.

  2. Absolutely agree with everything Dante said, couldn't be more right on the mark.

  3. Is the city willing to sell it? Any rough idea what the rehab/renovation cost would be? It doesn't look like it is in that bad of shape, I am surprised it has yet to attract any developers.

  4. The historic landmark should definitely stay put and be rehab/renovated it is still a very beautiful place it just needs a little tlc I live here in the fruitbelt and I watched them build these new so called houses and in my opinion they look very out of place for this neighborhood they actually look like college dorms so what does this mean for our neighborhood these new houses dont even have basements or attics in them who does that st.johns development of course two and three bedrooms do we realize how much money they will make renting to college students this whole thing should have been thought out better with the entire area evolved but no the Fruitbelt block clubs are a joke and the pastor pridgen advisory committee as well where are these ppl I dont see them going door to door now like they did when he was running for council man well im going to stop here just so sad what im seeing go down