Feb 28, 2014

Elmwood East Historic District to be Pursued by Preservation Buffalo Niagara and Elmwood Village Association

Preservation Buffalo Niagara and the Elmwood Village Association have announced another joint effort to pursue state and national historic district designation for the future Elmwood East Historic District. The listing of Elmwood West in 2012 has resulted in significant investment by homeowners who have been lovingly restoring their properties and commercial property owners sprucing up their rentals or businesses.
A community meeting will be conducted next month to inform residents and business owners within the potential historic district boundaries of the effects and benefits of the designation. The likely boundaries of the district would include buildings on east side of Elmwood Avenue from North Street to Iroquois Drive, between Elmwood and Delaware Avenues.

Just as the designation for Elmwood West, this new historic district would enable homeowners to utilize the 20% homeowner tax credit program and commercial property owners like storefront and apartment buildings to use the 40% program for income producing properties. The additional 20% for the commercial program comes from the federal government, which is not available for the homeowner program.
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Cobblestone Historic District Officially Certified

Although the Cobblestone Historic District was already established at the local level, it has been officially elevated to certified status.  As previously discussed, the local only designation enabled additional oversight to ensure unsympathetic changes were not being made to these historic buildings, but it did not enable owners to utilize the historic tax credit program for rehabilitation.
Preservation Studios completed the certification application for the owners of the Iron Works at 49 Illinois Street, Sam Savarino, Roger Trettel, Ed Plata, and Dan Mania to benefit the rehab of the vacant warehouse to a new bar/restaurant and great live music venue. The building was built for the Queen City Engineering Co. in 1902, which stayed there until 1965.
As a result, all the buildings located in the boundaries of the Cobblestone Historic District are now eligible for the historic tax credits, especially the intact 19th century complex at Illinois and South Park Avenue, often called the Blacksmith Shops.

The complex has been crumbling under the neglectful ownership of Darryl Carr who also owns and operates the Cobblestone Bar next door. Carr has been in and out of housing court and approached several times to sell the building, but has yet to budge. With any luck, the added incentive of the historic tax credits will entice Carr to sell or finally make a move with the buildings other than a slow demolition by neglect.

The Cobblestone Historic District was established in 1994 and includes a handful of buildings and the Cotter Fireboard dock (boundary map here).

For more images of the Cobblestone District, check out my Ipernity album here.


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Feb 27, 2014

Event Tomorrow at Uptown Theater to Announce Funds for Restoration of Bailey Avenue Landmark

The Bailey Avenue Business Association (BABAC) and the University Community Development Association (UDCDA) will receive $150,000 check in state funds tomorrow at the Uptown Theater, 3165 Bailey at 10am that will be used to rehabilitate the neighborhood landmark.
Varsity Uptown Theater

The theater was purchased by Abraham Cissé in 2010 who has been working since then to get it operational once again. The money to be presented tomorrow will help with the final push to open it to the public. Originally known as the Varsity, the theater was built in 1923 for James Cardina and was later owned by the Basil Brothers syndicate.

Once the final improvements have been completed the theater will be utilized by the youth program the UDCDA operates, it could serve the adjacent early childhood center and Westminster Charter School, have live performances, and maybe even screen movies. Several active groups and neighbors have also help the owner in the past with clean-up and restoration efforts like the University Heights Tool Library and Buffalo's Young Preservationists.
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Feb 25, 2014

Conceptual Plans for Redeveloping the Central Park Plaza and Revitalizing Surrounding Neighborhood Presented

Despite the frigid weather last night, well over one hundred people from the Fillmore-Leroy neighborhood attended a public presentation on redeveloping the Central Park Plaza (google map) on the city’s near east side. Recognizing the greater need to invest in the community as a whole, the presentation discussed the potential for new infill on vacant lots, reviving neighborhood commercial corridors, and leveraging public transportation for job growth.
Presenters included John Ciminelli of LPCiminelli Inc. who purchased the plaza site last May, prominent urban planning and design firm Goody Clancy, the project architect from Stieglitz Snyder Architecture, and Daria Pratcher the housing director from the FLARE organization (Fillmore Leroy Area Residents).
Attendees were each given green dots to indicate what concepts on the presentation boards they favored the most to better steer the next stages of developing the comprehensive plan. Most people leaned towards the traditional good urbanism options that fit the neighborhood and included notes like, “no vinyl siding” and that they “do not like the Jefferson Avenue townhouses.” It was quickly apparent that something missing and highly desired for the area was a neighborhood market and/or farmers market, which received so many dots by the end it almost disappeared.  
Although the concepts presented were in the very early stages of development, they were based on community input from several previous meetings in the past year. Many of those in the urban planning field will recognize that this bottom-up approach of engaging neighborhood residents over the course of the development has become commonplace to ensure the finished product works in each case-by-case scenario.
Work could start as early as 2015 with several more years to complete the new development, which could bring as many as 600 new units to the plaza site alone. The development team is currently working with the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation to begin remediation on the site and start the prep work.
Central Park Plaza shortly before all the buildings were landfilled 
Historically the plaza was a large quarry for the Buffalo Cement Co. before being filled in and developed as a shopping center in the mid-century. The property languished and was largely vacant in recent years, creating an eyesore and headache for the surrounding neighborhood. After some maneuvering to take control of the site from the negligent out of town owner, Ciminelli was able to purchase the site and razed the buildings for their new development. 

For additional photos of the Central Park Plaza and the community meeting, click here for my photos on Ipernity. 

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Feb 3, 2014

Rehabilitated Church Complex in Rochester Exemplifies Adaptive Reuse for our Historic Churches

The following post comes from a piece I wrote for the blog, Rochester Subway, which you should definitely be taking a look at if you are not familiar with it already. This historic church complex was rehabilitated using historic tax credits with help from my company, Preservation Studios and architecture services from the fantastic firm of SWBR Architects and has been one of my favorite to date.

As many in Buffalo know, the current Department of the Interior’s Standards do not allow for the interior of a church to be significantly divided within the historic tax credit program. Often without the benefit of these credits, the large expense of rehabbing a church doesn’t add up. This has resulted in many a wonderful church sent to the landfill, most recently the church at Colvin and Tacoma in North Buffalo.

The church at Holy Rosary was reused for community space that caters to the surrounding neighborhood and serves as a good model for our churches here. Additionally the former convent, rectory, and non-original school were converted to housing. It wasn’t just about the church complex though, the project involved strategic infill in the surrounding neighborhood as well. There are plenty of intact church complex here in Buffalo that could benefit from a very similar reuse that goes beyond the church and focuses on the overall community impact. Here is the post from Rochester Subway:

Rochester’s landmark Holy Rosary Church and Catholic school complex at Lexington and Dewey Avenues has been rehabilitated for new residential units and a large community space in the former church. The $15 million project by Providence Housing Development and SWBR Architects was made possible with equity provided by Enterprise Community Partners, City home-renovation grants & loans, and a payment in lieu of taxes agreement.

At the time of the groundbreaking in August 2012, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter praised Providence Housing for bringing “affordable, attractive housing to a community that eagerly awaits such good news.” Well, wait no more. The ribbon was cut this past November, and the historic church buildings have emerged as 60 units of much needed affordable housing and community space.

Although much of the church is now community space, several rows of pews were retained for seating
It’s important to note that this project wasn’t limited to only the church complex, it also included strategic infill in the immediate neighborhood around Holy Rosary.

Map of infill development as part of the project. Twenty-five new single family homes were constructed. All the new builds are located in the ten blocks adjacent to Holy Rosary as part of a comprehensive plan to impact a small area with new builds, rehab projects, and the church complex for the best impact possible.
The target area for the new builds includes a portion of the Dewey-Driving Park neighborhood, which was selected based the amount of vacant homes and lots, the potential for meaningful and noticeable results, and the planned investment already present in the area.

View of the church from the choir loft.
The primary goal of Providence Housing in completing the project was to provide a catalyst for the revitalization of the surrounding area and improve housing opportunities and accessibility.

New kitchen in the the rehabilitated rectory
Providence was awarded from the City of Rochester, on behalf of NCS Community Development, an additional $220,000 in HOME funds to expand the reach of work currently being completed in the area. These funds were awarded to NCS to leverage current and future funds for rehab of the interior and exterior of homes within our target geography.

Features like the original layout of rooms and details like this fireplace were retained
The rehabilitation of the church complex utilized the historic tax credit program, which meant a listing on the National Register of Historic Places. All the work had to be completed within the Department of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation so maintaining the open volume of the church was essential. Most of the pews were removed for flexible space. The rectory, convent, and school were all converted to apartment units.

Exterior of the rectory with the arcaded pergola leading to the church
The history of Holy Rosary parish extends back to 1889, when Bishop McQuaid initiated a small Catholic Mission from St. Patrick’s Church to serve the Glenwood area of Rochester. Glenwood occupied the northwest part of the city, bounded on the north by the city line, the east by the Genesee River, the south by the intersection of Deep Hollow with the Erie Canal and the west by the New York Central tracks. At the time of its inception, the mission served 89 Catholic families in this area who previously traveled to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in the middle of the city to worship.

The small chapel in the former convent
Bishop McQuaid established dozens of Catholic churches across the city to serve the Catholic immigrant communities—particularly Germans and Irish—whose children faced discrimination in public schools. Holy Rosary served a mostly Irish working class population. It was Rochester’s fifteenth Catholic church and among twenty-six parishes that Bishop McQuaid established.

Exterior of the convent before work began
In 1890, construction began on a small chapel at the corner of Row (Lexington) and Finch Streets. It was completed the following year and accommodated about 330 people. A school building, 38’ x 21’, was erected at the rear of the chapel and the school was run by the Sisters of St. Joseph. By 1896, the congregation had grown large enough that it separated from St. Patrick’s and became its own parish. Father John Van Ness led the new Holy Rosary parish. The same year marked a shift in immigration patterns to the United States that impacted Rochester’s population and in turn Holy Rosary parish. In 1896, more immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe arrived in the United States than from Northwestern Europe, and Rochester saw an influx of Italians in particular. Holy Rosary parish grew as immigrants, seeking manufacturing jobs in the city, settled in the Glenwood area (later called the Edgerton neighborhood). As the parish grew, the small chapel and school became too small for the congregation’s needs. In 1904, the cornerstone of a new church and school was laid at the corner of Lexington and Oriole Streets. This construction cost $30,000.

Exterior of the convent after rehabilitation 
The building phase also included a convent for the sisters who ran the school. Until the convent on Oriole was built in 1911, the sisters traveled back and forth from their motherhouse on Augustine Street. The convent cost $17,393. The Sisters of St. Joseph came to Western New York at the request of Bishop John Timon of the Diocese of Buffalo in 1854. Fourteen years later, when the Diocese of Rochester formed from the eastern part of the Diocese of Buffalo, Bishop Bernard McQuaid asked the Sisters of St. Joseph to establish a system of parochial schools, of which Holy Rosary was a part. In January 1891, four days after Bishop Bernard McQuaid celebrated the first Mass in the original church, Sr. Raphael Leary and Sr. Aloysia Lonergan opened the parish school to fifty-eight pupils.

Ariel view of Holy Rosary before the original school burned and was replaced
Holy Rosary School grew significantly during the next decades, reaching enrollment of over 1,000 students in the 1960s. The Sisters of St. Joseph continued to staff the school, providing a strong educational and spiritual foundation to Holy Rosary students. The school remained under the administration of the Sisters of St. Joseph through the 1980s, and members of the congregation continued to serve the parish as pastoral ministers through the time of the parish’s closing in 2008. In addition to opening nearly one hundred elementary schools and high schools, the Sisters established and operated Nazareth College, St. Joseph’s Hospital in Elmira, St. Ann’s Home for the elderly, and St. Joseph’s Villa (for children without family support). They also established missions to Selma, Alabama in 1940 and to Brazil in 1964, extending the Sisters’ work across the globe.

Interior of the church towards the altar before 
The parish continued to grow to the point that the new school and church became insufficient after ten years. Father Arthur Hughes, who was appointed pastor in 1914, proposed that a new building be constructed in the Spanish Mission style. He traveled to the west coast for seven weeks in 1915 to visit Spanish Mission Churches and become familiar with the style. The following year, he presented plans for a church and rectory designed by John T. Comes and John E. Kauzor of Pittsburgh in partnership with Charles W. Eldridge of Rochester.

Contemporary descriptions of the design and historical accounts of its construction identify the complex as exemplary of the Spanish Mission style, likely because of such visible details as the red tile roof, the Mudejar rose window and the arcaded pergola. Despite these features, which clearly evidence the intention of making Holy Rosary a unique building in the area, a more apt description of the complex also considers its situation within the Arts and Crafts zeitgeist of the time. Arts and Crafts philosophy prized natural materials and craftsmanship, which was articulated in Rochester through brick and Medina sandstone and references to such Prairie School features as overhanging eaves and brackets.

In addition to these elements, the interior of the rectory at Holy Rosary displayed Arts and Crafts aesthetics with dark wood wainscoating and sandstone fireplace. Clearly the intent to create a Mission style church was central to the design process of the church and convent, regardless of the stylistic purity of the final products. The intention of the Mission style church complex reflects Father Hughes’s desire to make Holy Rosary a unique landmark in the city. His trip to California underscores the extent to which he sought an authentic design yet the choice of brick and sandstone walls instead of stucco tempered the Mission style designs for Rochester’s climate and architectural context.

The church was estimated to hold 750-800 people and the project was estimated to cost $60,000. Alongside this new construction, a renovation of the existing church-school building to be used exclusively for school purposes was estimated to cost $19,000. The original church (then used by the school) was demolished and the rectory was moved in order to accommodate the new building.

The parish continued to grow, and by 1924 the school was overcrowded. Enrollment increased from 375 pupils in 1916 to almost 700 in 1924. An addition of six new classrooms to the front of the school was constructed in the summer of 1924 in a style compatible with the Mission church and rectory. In 1937, another addition of six classrooms ameliorated further growth of the school’s enrollment.

The next major addition to the parish complex was the expansion of the convent in 1946. In 1981, a three-alarm fire destroyed the school building. It was reconstructed on site but was not designed to match the style of the church and rectory. Holy Rosary continued to serve the Catholic community in the area until March 2008, when the last mass was held in the church. 
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