Could This Happen Here?

Of course, it did once.  Buffalo has a history of tearing down great buildings, but that was then, right? The thought that Chicago would allow the demolition of a YWCA building from 1895 (top image), in a landmark district, makes one wonder.

This building and those nearby remind us of the Webb Building, the Guaranty, the Genesee Gateway, White’s Livery, the LCo Building, and more.  It’s unconscionable that in a city with Chicago’s wealth, a judge would order a building torn down at the expense of the integrity of those around it.
With a winter upon us, we always have fears about those “fringe” buildings – those on the way to being fixed that might not make it through one more season of ice and heavy snow.  Luckily, this year, two important buildings – Curtiss and the Greystone - will get a reprieve.  
One hopes that Chicago has a Rocco Termini, a Sam Savarino, a Hodgeson Russ Law Firm, a Howard Zemsky, who will step forward and say, “I can do this. I’ll make it work.”
Buffalo learned its lesson the hard way, and our preservationists and developers fight to save now, rather than dismantle.  It shouldn’t take the loss of a building like this YWCA, in the setting it enjoys, to wake up a populace.  That which is gone, we’ve learned too well, can never be replaced.

About the author  ⁄ JohnInCambridge

19 comments
Jaybird
Jaybird

This is something I hope does not happen in Buffalo again.

It's already happened too much in Detroit, the loss of architectural marvels either due to neglect, not having the money to restore it, or other reasons. Now a good amount of Detroit's density has deteriorated to abandoned lots or parking lots. Compared to Detroit, Buffalo has done a better job at preservation, I think.

It's a shame the YWCA building has to come down. But Chicago will probably build something in its place within the near future if and when the building comes down.

Daniel Sack
Daniel Sack

Where did Ciminelli put the Bank Buffalo Building it "dismantled" when they demolished the Chamber of Commerce building in the 1970s? Ciminelli promised a new building incorporating the Bank of Buffalo building - we have a parking lot there at Main and Seneca.

I don't even remember what was demolished at 2 corners at Main and Swan for two parking lots.

I could go on but I'll be eating dinner soon...

johnnywalker
johnnywalker

Actually Washington DC does a lot of facade preservation. It is very well done. Very interesting The way the historic facades and buildings are integrated into the new structures, in order to maximize utilization of the very expensive real estate. It is also probably very expensive. Check out Penn-Quarter next time you go.

Sally
Sally

The BC &BS building stuck with the old gas works facde is a prime offender of this type of preservationist crap.

STEEL
STEEL

Actually I think that they are planning a parking lot.

Jack
Jack

Do we know what is being planned for the Chicago site? With high land values in downtown Chicago, I assume it won't be a pariking lot. Once when I was bemoaning the loss of architecturally significant mid-rise buildings to my son, he pointed out that large (booming) cities often make those tough decisions as part of their growth. He said: "you have to be willing to knock down older 8 story buildings to built the 30 story buildings and sometimes knock down the 30s to build the 80s etc etc." I don't like that reasoning, but it seems to be true in large booming markets. Sometimes the "compromise" is to retain a facade and build a modern skyscraper under and above the old skin. That often turns out really grotesque, and worse than simply replacing the old building.

Sally
Sally

Another deal will not follow soon. Unless Koessler comes up with the closing dollars on Tuesday the Statler will be mothballed... for many many years. :(

Christine
Christine

In other words...do Buffalonians want to have some authentic historical and period districts that people dont just want to live in but people would want to visit or should every area be open to infill of any type and quality?

This post raises the question!

Christine
Christine

Another deal will follow the Statler very soon (no I do not have inside information). However, with the Dulski, Lafayette, AM&As Department Store and Warehouses...and the completion of the Federal Courthouse...the entire valuation of the Statler has changed. Its the last largescale preservation building left in Buffalo.

The bigger question Buffalonias should be pondering is how Buffalo should be infilled. It looks like we have an abatement on demolitions but we are also running out of big preservation projects. Can reconstructing demolished signature buildings help to rebrand our downtown, can zoning period architecture in historical districts help rebrand our city...and if contemporary and modern is to be built, then should it be put in areas like the outer harbor, inner harbor, first ward and eastside where there is plenty of room from urban renewal and demolition rather than areas with existing high densities of period architecture.

Sally
Sally

Never mind I found the article - the deal is dead. Shame.

Sally
Sally

So did the Statler sales close today or not - nothing on the news at 6 about it?

johnnywalker
johnnywalker

What does one unfinished building have to do with it . I'm sure with the liquidity crises you can find suspended construction all over the world. Including Dubai. Facts are Facts.Chicago is ranked as having the 3rd most impressive skylne in the world,behing Hong Kong,and New York. (Emporis.Com).

sonyactivision
sonyactivision

Perhaps like Waterview, a 90 story "world class" building that only made it 20 stories or so before the credit crunch stopped its construction? That was a great Chicago infill story. There are other cities losing architectural gems such as New York where classic old Automobile Row buildings are being demolished for more iffy condo towers. Unless the financing and development plans for a replacement are totally locked in, I would't allow a demo to happen. Period.

hamp
hamp

Chicago may infill this site, but it doesn't mean it will be with a world class building.

Chicago has a lot of great architecture, but a lot of awful stuff too, ie the State of Illinois Building.

With a renovated AM&A's, Buffalo will be 3 for 3 in redeveloping existing department stores, instead of demolishing them.

johnnywalker
johnnywalker

Difference between Chicago and Buffalo. Chicago will redevelope that site with a world class building, and Buffalo would end up with a parking lot.

brownteeth
brownteeth

I was thinking the same thing when it comes to models of infill homes for the city. If we had modern takes on the more common forms of residential architectures to be used in each appropriate neighborhood then we can avoid future plastic homes. They don't have to be any more expensive than the plastic homes. If this is thought out there's no reason why a "package" can't be put together with a "flat rate" price per sq foot cost that is up front per each model. Perhaps the only difference would come with different interior finish options. The kicker would be getting City Hall to "pre-approve" these different sets of plans for each model. One could only imagine how the city could change if we mixed modern versions of these classic architectural styles. Maybe some UB Arch students could put soemthing together?

david (fixbuffalo)
david (fixbuffalo)

There are a number of significant buildings - mentioned in the post - that are compelling and slowly coming back to life. There remain a number of lesser known heritage buildings - both religious and industrial - that have fallen off the local radar and are likely to take additional hits during the winter months. A few of them were never redeemed at the City's recent tax sale and were unceremoniously 'adjourned'. These include the City's oldest synagogue (1), an amazing former catholic complex (2) and perhaps the most significant building - designed by Albert Kahn - that's beginning to crumble (3). Links here -

1 - http://fixbuffalo.blogspot.com/2009/10/city-for-sale-part-iv.html

2 - http://fixbuffalo.blogspot.com/2009/10/city-for-sale-part-iii.html

3 - http://fixbuffalo.blogspot.com/2009/10/city-for-sale-part-v.html

The third link - to the work of Albert Kahn - has an Elmwood Avenue address.

Christine
Christine

For a minute that looked like the Liberty Bank Building and I was expecting to see the main place mall adjoinment.

The first impression from being to other cities is that this sort of period architectural style is actually very common throughout the sunbelt (though larger windows and minus a few of the period embellishments), particularly in apartment buildings.

Frankly, I dont care about Chicago and their decision making process. When your in a city filled with the worlds tallest buildings ... the property values are such that a 5 story building even if historic cannot sustain itself where a 100 story building could exist.

This bigger issue is...why cant downtown Buffalo and our surrounding urban neighborhoods emulate their native periods of architectural diversity instead of constantly infilling with suburban contemporary that is already 30 years out of date!

Its not as if architects cant design a working version of Italianate Revival, Greek Revival, Beaux Arts, Art Nuveau, Art Deco, Arts&Crafts, Richardsonian, etc for 2009.

Buffalo is a sister city to Chicago but we do not have their land values...and it should be a lesson to Buffalonians and Buffalo developers...that as Detroit, Chicago and other cities lose their historical treasures...Buffalo stands to inherit...being the Paris of the Great Lakes...if only we could grab the mantle and both market ourselves as such and build buildings as such. We have the parks, the grids, the architectural history of such buildings and we still have much of the architectural legacy. This is what infill in Buffalo should be about!

We should grab the mantle for what other cities are NOT!

Build_it_to_the_Curb!
Build_it_to_the_Curb!

I can only hope that there is a Chicago-born architect living in Buffalo who is devastated by this news...

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