Wrecking Buffalo: St. Paul Mall Demo Preparation Underway?

Buffalo Rising first reported about Ellicott Development’s request to demolish almost all of the houses currently standing on a small dead end street called St. Paul Mall which starts at Main Street just north of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.  An earlier post also documented Ellicott Development’s request to demolish the much larger Our Lady of Lourdes Rectory which is also on St. Paul facing Main Street. That proposal was floated while Ellicott founder Carl Paladino was still running for governor and was quickly retracted after the BRO story appeared.  Ellicott has amassed a large group of properties in this area including the Lourdes church which Paladino says will not be demolished.  The earlier BRO story states that there were several properties on St. Paul which were not owned by Ellicott.  Reports are the the company now owns all the houses on the street. 
St. Paul Mall is an interesting early attempt at redeveloping the city in a way other than the (then popular) ‘clear cut and wait’ type urban renewal which has negatively impacted much of downtown – it started in the 1950′s.  This intact east side street was renovated in whole (every house at one time). In a popular and somewhat bland 70′s design style, the street was given a unified appearance with street-scape elements, color, and architectural detail.  I am digging around looking for some press clippings from the time and will post more history if I ever find some.  The street stayed intact for 3 decades but was not a resounding success mostly because there was never any follow through.  It was an isolated neighborhood surrounded by disinvestment.  When the city planners demolish neighborhoods they follow through and level everything.  When they invest in historic neighborhoods they do it piecemeal, pretty much asking for failure. Even so it was a successful experiment in that  this street still stands when almost everything around it is gone – at least for now.
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Although Ellicott  Development states that they have plans for the Lourdes church and the surrounding land they have not released any project details.  According to the previous BRO story Ellicott wanted to demolish the 10  houses to save on their tax bill until the site is developed (or 15 plus the rectory if they do own the remaining houses).
From Buffalo rising:
According to William Paladino, Chief Executive Officer of Ellicott Development, the company does not have immediate plans for the properties.

“These houses are not the highest and best use of that site,” says Paladino. 

According to Paladino, the structures are not in good condition and knocking them down will reduce the company’s tax bill.  The Preservation Board was told taxes are approximately $610/year for each of the properties.

Ellicott Development bought the Our Lady of Lourdes convent and school from Prayer & Praise Fellowships Inc. in 2009 for $370,000.  A year later, the circa-1898 church at 1115 Main Street was purchased for $40,000.  It closed in 1993.

Paladino says that his company plans to eventually redevelop the Our Land of Lourdes complex and notes the “church is staying.”  He says his company has no specific plans for the property at this point and that it is “on the back burner” as Ellicott now has a “full plate” with a number of other projects underway or starting soon.
It is my understanding that the Preservation Board tabled the demolition request but as of last week the houses were being stripped of their siding revealing 100 year old sheathing exposed to the weather (the sheathing looks to be in excellent condition).  
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Based on Ellicott’s recent statements on their plans for the street, this work is likely preparation for demolition.  Does this mean that Ellicott is land banking this street?  Are they getting rid of the burden of the buildings so that they can sit and hold the land indefinitely in the hope that they can turn a future profit.  Certainly they are entitled to a profit on their investments but is it reasonable to ask the residents of the city of Buffalo to be held up waiting for this unidentified future that may or may not benefit them?  Buying and holding with minimal to no investment in property has been a common business practice in Buffalo resulting in many rotting buildings and empty lots.  This practice drains value form neighboring properties  and reduces revenue to the city.  Is buying land to clear and hold for unspecified future development a new form of this practice?   In my opinion The City makes a grave mistake by allowing this kind practice.  This street should not be demolished absent a real plan for higher and better use.  Demolition for lower taxes?  Really? Let’s hope that is not the real reason Ellicott wants these buildings gone.
Images via Bernice Radle
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About the author  ⁄ david steele

30 comments
Pegger
Pegger

At least there are plenty of similar apartments and flats to be rented by those displaced.

STEEL
STEEL

"According to William Paladino, Chief Executive Officer of Ellicott Development, the company does not have immediate plans for the properties."

KangDangaLang
KangDangaLang

I never realized how close this really is to the BNMC. There is no way these sit vacant. I bet they build homes in the 200-250k range for employees of the BNMC.

KangDangaLang
KangDangaLang

Just because they didn't tell you doesnt mean they have no plan. Do you think Paladino would have paid top dollar for this land if he had no reuse plan......COME ON MAAAAAN!

KangDangaLang
KangDangaLang

"They are in good condition AND they are in a walkable, dense, urban neighborhood that is located literally one block from the medical corridor"

Really? Go trudge around this area after dark by yourself and see how walkable it is. PS, most of these houses were abandoned, which negates your point about a dense urban area.

BuffaloQPublic
BuffaloQPublic

One justification for the potential demolitions is very weak! They would produce a paltry $610 (per house) in annual savings. (There probably is a write-off avenue for same.)

I may be confused, but I thought that there were homeowners on St. Paul and that several of them sold their properties to Paladino’s company.

If that’s true, it seems the hold-outs will be victims. Essentially, they would be hostages in their devalued homes due to the devastation.

Just FYI ─ recently, there were several properties (Riley St. addresses) purchased by Ellicott Development listed in the Buffalo News’ real estate transaction section.

There may not be a concrete project recipe yet but they certainly appear to be gathering the ingredients.

pampiniform
pampiniform

>we need political leader which truly understands what is required in building a city in 2012. Density, walkability, preservation, etc. St. Paul Mall represents this.

How about jobs? Ever think that maybe the decrease in the population of the city and area are the reason that these buildings are being torn down all over the city? Fewer people mean less demand for these buildings. Even the mall here demosntrates that. If this were some in - demand area, people wouldn't have sold out to Paladino.

What about better schools and infrastructure? A more responsive city governament? A removal of urban blight? Those are what the city needs more than anything, and that the city seems incapable of delivering.

r-k-tekt
r-k-tekt

For the record the Preservation Board voted unanimously to deny demolition. Unfortunately since the houses are not local landmarks the vote is only a recommendation and carries no weight.

The houses were viewed by members of the Board and found to be in good condition. Some were vacant due to evictions, the rest had eviction orders.

To the best of the Board's knowledge the site will become surface parking.

Ellicott development is on a demolition spree around the city...Buildings in Lovejoy, Niagara Street, Tonawanda Street have all been torn down lately. The Preservation Board has no ability to stop them. The Board even asked that shubbery and/or fencing be installed at demolished sites only to be laughed at.

While none of these may be significant on their own, it is an insidious action that is destroying the fabric of the City

300miles
300miles

No demolition should be approved until a firm timetable for re-development is also approved. Until then the buildings should stay and he should continue paying full taxes on them. If he didn't want the houses, he shouldn't have bought them. If he wants to redevelop the site, then come up with a solid plan. No more of this crap about "let me demo everything and then wait 25 years until I feel like actually investing in it"

wtupperguy
wtupperguy

These houses started coming down today.

Platt4
Platt4

These homes aren't part of a neighborhood- they're isolated and surrounded by commercial and medical properties. The medical campus is heading north and south- I'm happy Ellicott Development is tapping into this. I may be wrong, but Carl isn't in the parking business, he's in the development business. Even if it takes a few years to gel, something will get built here. A grassy field is better than a block of vacant homes IMO. And Ellicott may build housing here- it'll sure be better than the run of the mill singles and doubles that are being knocked down which there clearly isn't a demand for. Now fire up that excavator and get knocking!

Lego1981
Lego1981

My point is, they knocked it all down for the 'potential' and no 'plan'. That is exactly what is happening right now with this block. No idea what they want to do with it, but they want the entire block demolished anyway.

Buffalo All Star
Buffalo All Star

Good job comparing the theories of urban renewal to some insignificant housing on a parcel in direct proximity to one of the (if not the) largest job generators in the history of the City of Buffalo..its the Medical district..there won't be much wishing needed here.

Buffalo All Star
Buffalo All Star

"Would be".."Could be"..."They'd be coveted elsewhere".."They have so much potential"..."It could be a lovely street"

If these homes could have been so great..then why didn't any member of the growing medical corridor class purchase one of these lovely establishments? If the dense, walkable amenityless section of Main is desirable now..imagine whats to come when the development of the Medical campus continues? More ambulances..medical high rises..parking garages etc. You're right..this wouldn't be happening on the other side of Main street...instead of whining push for a way to marry each side of the street and bring Allentown out into the Medical district and vice versa.

As stated in the previous article..the homes ranged from $3500-$50k each!!! Any..I repeat..any medical district worker can afford those prices.. hell the switchboard operator at BuffGen could let alone your high paid researchers and doctors..but they didn't? Odd..that if these were so desirable that no one else stepped in to buy them?

Lego1981
Lego1981

This is what they did to most of downtown during the 1960's and 70's. KNOCK DOWN EVERYTHING with the wish for something for better to replace it. And yet, we still don't have any new buildings on the massive lots around the Bus Station, along N. & S. Division Streets, and so on.

sbrof
sbrof

Most of these structures were occupied prior to getting kicked out. Where are the Artvoice articles about displacement of the poor here and for what? So paladino can save some money on the property taxes. For a parking lot to serve the medical campus? There is no goal or point to the demolition of these properties.

rustbeltcity
rustbeltcity

Could there be a more perfect example of Buffalo's poor planning? In any other city a street like this, so similar to a Mews would be coveted by prof working class people. Walking distance to the Medical Campus, Allen and the Elmwood Village. Perfect to help infill the area with yet more people that would help turn around the area and bring in cafes and shops to the dirty failing end of Allen. These could be private homes and apartments. The potential for a lovely, charming and highly desirable residential street is there. Or I should I say was there and now we have yet another desolate tract to look forward to. Every stupid move like this balances out evey postive move and keeps us at a standstill in the end.

BuffaloByChoice
BuffaloByChoice

Sad to think they even approved the demo requests. It's not like he even has an immediate use for the land; one that would justify displacing people from an already oft-marginalized community. Maybe he wants to build another billboard location to call our Phil Rumore or something? Let's see how many negative votes I get for this opinion. I'm often surprised to find that there are Carl Country supporters on BRO.

hamp
hamp

This thing stinks in so many ways. And it may explain Paladino's recent announcement about work beginning on the Greystone and Court Street building. I'm not buying their latest PR stunt.

Demolishing houses that have been around for so many years is not sustainable. All those materials will most likely end up in a landfill somewhere. And for what? Creating a "shovel ready" site that could end up as a parking lot.

Where is the City Planning Department on this? They should have someone assigned to the Medical Campus and surrounding neighborhoods to help implement a more reasonable plan for housing and vitality. I don't see it happening.

The Medical Campus is supposed to help bring a resurgence to housing in the neighborhood. This is doing the opposite.

This is beyond irony. Really dumb, and counter to all the other progressive things happening in the city.

bernicebuffalove
bernicebuffalove

These houses are similar to what we see on Potomac, Breckenridge or Bird. They are in good condition AND they are in a walkable, dense, urban neighborhood that is located literally one block from the medical corridor. With a little love, these could have been nice er apartments that could be rented to the doctors, nurses, graduate students.. etc.

The bigger picture is that we will never make another block like this. It is so unique to Buffalo, similar to Coe Place or Ada Place. Ada place is falling apart yet Coe (very close to Paul's Mall) is now thriving because of its unique character of the streetscape and housing stock.

This block could have easily had the same fate as Coe Place.. the saddest part is that if it was located on the West Side of Main, this demo wouldn't be taking place right now.

Buffalo All Star
Buffalo All Star

Now lets not be foolish and call these demo's pointless..you can see Buff Gen and the Kaleida center in the background..please pick your battles..this is shaping up to be the only job generator in WNY..

We suffer from an over abundance of surface parking in Buffalo..and we also suffer from a large surplus of housing as well. NO LOSS HERE. You don't have to be a genius..let alone a local multi millionare developer to realize that whatever goes here will be big and multi-story. The price of progress folks.

As stated above..consider yourself lucky that the private sector is paying for the demo..I can't wait for the follow up when he demolishes the old church too.

What sign are you going to make when theres a big shiny new building here??

Jesse
Jesse

This is preservationist porn.

But let's say Ellicott has these buildings and there's nothing going on in there, and they want to 'bank' them until a better use (or simple redevelopment) can be done profitably.

Maybe a better idea would be to set up a "pending" tax status that would vastly reduce the yearly costs of just hanging on to them.

I don't know, just a crappy quick idea off the top of my head. There must be some incentive that can be used to hang on to the old buildings. Land-value tax, anyone?

STEEL
STEEL

exactly - when you work toward that goal everyone benefits instead of one speculator

Travelrrr
Travelrrr

I am really opposed to this. Not because these are particularly architecturally-significant structures, but because there has been no plan released as to the future. "Why is that our business" the pro-demo crowd will ask? Because we suffer, as a city, from an over-abundance of surface parking lots ("shovel ready indeed).

We need to change the paradigm in Buffalo and we need political leader which truly understands what is required in building a city in 2012. Density, walkability, preservation, etc. St. Paul Mall represents this.

STEEL
STEEL

What is the better use you are talking about? I have not heard one proposed. You do understand that this is not part of the medical campus and that the growth planned for the medical campus is to the south right?

Platt4
Platt4

Good riddance. This area should be about jobs and the Medical Campus. It was a cool, intact half block but there is a better use for this site. Pick your battles people. In a shrinking city, taking these mundane homes out by the PRIVATE SECTOR is a win!

paulsobo
paulsobo

Expansion of the medical campus will save more buildings and endangered houses in still intact neighborhoods. I say lets be practicle.. the demolitions should put more emphasis on Masten, Humboldt, etc

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