Delaware North Companies and Jacobs Family Make Major Gift to Further Martin House Restoration

Delaware North Companies and the Jacobs Family have donated $250,000 to the Martin House restoration project.  Delaware North has been a longtime supporter of the Darwin D. Martin House, and this announcement supports completion of the house’s restoration.  In addition, this gift will count toward the challenge grant recently issued by LPCiminelli. 

“This is an important project in Western New York, and we are certainly proud to support the effort to restore this historic landmark,” said Lou Jacobs, a principal of Delaware North Companies who also currently serves as vice president of the board of directors of the Martin House Restoration Corporation.

Delaware North Companies is a global leader in hospitality and food service founded nearly 100 years ago in Buffalo by the Jacobs family, which continues to own and operate the company from its headquarters in downtown’s Key Center.

“Delaware North and the Jacobs family understand and appreciate the importance of the Martin House and our efforts to restore it,” said MHRC President John N. Walsh III. “The company and the Jacobs family have been invaluable supporters of this project, and this gift will be a tremendous boost toward our fundraising goal.

MHRC executive director Mary F. Roberts stated, “We are honored and energized by this most recent gift.  The Martin House is indeed fortunate to have these two wonderful organizations, Delaware North Companies and LPCiminelli, as such generous patrons of our work.”

Mart2DSC_0228.JPGPreviously, Delaware North Companies donated $146,000 to the Darwin D. Martin House project, including a $125,000 lead gift in response to the M&T Chairman’s Challenge campaign in 2003.

To date, nearly $45 million has been raised for the restoration of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House Complex, with the public and private sectors contributing almost equally, towards the restoration campaign goal of $50 million.  Under the terms of LPCiminelli’s challenge grant, gifts can be made to either the restoration campaign or to the endowment fund. The MHRC will need to raise $750,000 in the private sector in order to earn the $250,000 gift. 

The interior restoration of the Martin House, which is under way but only partially funded, is the fifth and final major phase of restoration work. This final major phase of restoration work involves all three levels of the 15,000-square-foot Martin House. Work to be completed includes reinstallation of Wright’s extensive interior woodwork, restoration of intricately layered wall finishes and recreation of the wisteria-patterned glass-tile mosaic on the central fireplace.

Once restored, the Martin House Complex is expected to draw between 60,000 to 100,000 visitors each year –including many first-time visitors from around the world, according to the results of independent consultants’ research. The mid-level range of projected visitation translates into nearly $20 million of annual economic impact for the region. This is largely new money to Western New York and to the state, which will in turn benefit state taxpayers. It is anticipated that the investment being made in the Martin House will pay for itself in three to five years.

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20 comments
whatever
whatever

"does it matter if the costs are recouped in 3 years, 5 years, a decade, a century?"

Deaner, if the estimates of economic impact (and of attendance, cost recouping, etc) don't matter and 3 years or 100 years are both all well and good, then I'd be confused why the numbers are even brought up in the first place. You're who first brought up the 5 year thing, not me.

One could argue DMH is a priceless intangible cultural asset no matter how many people see it, and never mind claims about near term economic impact, etc. But if instead somebody does the latter, well then of course it's open to question.

Regarding taking exception, it isn't even that at this point - since without seeing it (or at least a summary of how estimates were made), I don't see how anybody can disagree with it or agree with it - or even with its low or high ranges.

If estimates are used only in decision making by private donors like Louis Jacobs, then I suppose keeping their methodology private is fine. However, if ever used for justifying public $ from NYS and Erie County, then transparency would be nice - just as people justifiably want transparency about Trico.

The theme of your 7:59 comment looks like it might be advocating basically a blank check for the DMH, because anything less would be short sighted. It's fine with me if private donors want to have that outlook about it, but for public $ there's many other needs and priorities. Dollars for DMH in govt budgets can't be spent on other things, obviously. Btw, that's what the Artvoice discussion I linked was about - how there's so many competing demands for govt funding of different cultural entities.

DeanerPPX
DeanerPPX

RE: where the estimate came from- I got that from the very last line of the article: "It is anticipated that the investment being made in the Martin House will pay for itself in three to five years."

I have no idea who came up with that estimate or how they did so (I assume it is Mr. Jacobs and the DNC, though the article does not specify). But I had a feeling /somebody/ would take issue with it, so I chose the latter extent of the projection.

But my point still stands, does it matter if the costs are recouped in 3 years, 5 years, a decade, a century? We need to stop dumping our money and resources into half-assed projects that cater to immediate gratification and require triple the funds to counteract when they become obsolete with next season's hemlines.

FLW didn't design this house for a tenant on a 6-month lease, he intended it to stand for generations. That is one of the first things you learn in architecture school, to design wisely as if your building is meant to stand for eternity (as opposed to business school and 'flip that house' shows on tv where the goal is to take your cash and run as soon as you turn a profit).

People will not be nearly as interested in visiting the Martin House if the 'renovations' consist of slapping on a new coat of paint. The previous owner tried to make a quick buck on the property by bulldozing the pergola and plopping down a crappy apartment complex. For years it sat empty with no monies being invested in its upkeep, which both allowed its condition to deteriorate and generated ZERO income. Were either of those strategies even remotely successful? Yes, a couple people sold off the fixtures and selfishly put a few dollars in their own pocket... but now we need to spend millions just to get the place back to something remotely resembling its former grandeur.

Short-sightedness is an absolute plague in Buffalo. We've lost sight of the centuries ahead and now can't even be bothered to think past the benefits even five or ten years down the road. If the bottom line and next year's income is all that's important, just tear the place down and build a parking lot so you can charge $3 a parking space at the next Sabres game. Eventually we'll all be rich collecting income from the hoards of tourists who will pay to park their cars while they stop on their way to a city that actually has anything left worth visiting...

whatever
whatever

"How would that be a bad thing?"

Rand, I'm very skeptical of the claimed 5 or even 15 year payback (or even 7.5 years).

My reply to Deaner wondering about 15 vs the 5 years he mentioned (and I've no idea what that estimate was based on, or by who 'they' is) was just to note how these kinds of estimates can change so widely. Sometimes 'official' guesses are made by people who are motivated to advocate for the project in public opinion. For all we know it might be 50 years, or it might cost more to operate and maintain than the real economic benefit. I'm not saying that's so either - I have no idea and see no reason to assume either way.

It would be interesting to see the explanation for how the economic impact was officailly predicted by whoever did it. I wonder if it's public info?

Whether the current 30,000 is likely to jump to anything like 60,000 with long term consistency is one factor, but also of course there's a question of how many of them aren't local people, and how many of the remainder truly come here primarily because of the DMH and wouldn't be traveling to here regardless for other reasons.

30,000 would be the attendance of about one and a half Sabres games. Maybe that kind of comparison could provide some sanity check on economic impact assessments. Not to say those groups of people are identical in breakdown, but it's one way among many to look at it.

Rand503
Rand503

First, if those numbers are correct, and you figure that each person spends at least $100 in economic activity for price of admission, gift shop expenditures, donations, and eating and accommodations, then the figure is about $3,300,000 per year already in economic activity. We don't know how many of the visitors are locals, in which case the $100 may be a bit high, or out of towners, for whom that figure would be significantly higher.

That means that even if the figure is low, the pay back time is 15 years. That's not too bad.

However, this house is still under construction. Most people really don't want to see the place unfinished, especially since it's the main house that still needs work. It's not at all unreasonable to expect the yearly attendance figures to jump considerably once the entire complex is finished. At that point, there will be plenty of international press that will provide free publicity.

If attendance just doubles to 65000 visitors per year upon completion, then the payback time is halved to just 7.5 years.

How would that be a bad thing?

whatever
whatever

deaner>"They expect the investment to pay itself off in five years or less."

Well, our area's elite They have predicted many things about the future, some of which come true and some not.

Artvoice recently reported that the DMH has so far been drawing less than 1/3 the rate of visitors that They said a study that They commissioned predicted:

"….Study conducted for Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin Martin House estimated a potential 100,000 annual visitors, based on the experience of Fallingwater, the iconic southwest Pennsylvania Wright-designed house that annually draws about 140,000 visitors. So far, the Darwin Martin House has drawn fewer than one-third the target. ..."

So I'd wonder if that "less than one-third" actual visitors would mean the "five years" Deaner mentioned will turn out to be 15 years or more?

I won't criticize Delaware North or Ciminelli for how they want to donate their own private $.

But when so much public taxpayer $ is being sent on things like this, it's reasonable to be skeptical of claims from politicians and pork requesters. It's so easy for "They" to predict things and seldom if ever any accountability if it doesn't happen.

Even this BR article quotes at face value the 100,000 number of visitors for DMH, although at least watered down already a bit to a range of 60,000 to 100,000.

If AV is correct the current annual attendance is under 33,000 ... and that's total visitors to the house, not the number of tourists for whom the DMH is necessary to motivate a trip to Buffalo, so there's quite a few reasons to accept as secular gospel the $20M that They are saying for economic impact.

Rand503
Rand503

I don't see this as a zero-sum game. One preservation success might spur another; ten preservation successes will certainly spur many more. Once all the Wright structures in Buffalo are online, we will have a critical mass just for that one architect.

Eventually, even bean counters will see the value of preserving buildings. IT makes good economic sense to do so, as well as stroking civic pride. That will pull out even more money.

Rand503
Rand503

There are 50 million ways you can spend the money, the question is whether it can be spent in a way that will increase value somewhere. This is clearly a good value, since it will generate many times more in revenue than $50 million over the next decade. That's a pretty good deal.

HUD has already spent hundreds of millions on our housing and poor neighborhoods, and nothing has come of it. It sure sounds good to say we should spend "on our neighborhoods," but unless you have an actual plan that will generate at least $50 million in revenue or value, it's just a pipedream.

I prefer solid investments over pipedreams, and frankly, that's the only way to run a city.

paulsobo
paulsobo

I thought the Martin House Complex got enough money when they siphoned off money for the Richardson Restoration Complex.

With the Statler, Lafayette and Martin House making such great progress...the Richardson Complex is lagging badly and should not be ignored further. Get those rooms ready for classes and/or teacher offices...but get that building occupied.

Sizable donations like theirs for the Martin House should raise the issue of rebuilding the Larkin Administration Building. Wrights first modern Office Building masterpiece. Perhaps as a Delaware North Headquarters.

Let the natural momentum of the Martin House carry it forward and lets get some struggling projects the momentum they deserve!

grad94
grad94

complete agreement from this corner. why oh why can't a big chunk of the city demo budget be put to this use?

grad94
grad94

someday people will study how one of the statistically poorest cities in america nevertheless saved some of the nation's most significant architectural treasures. such as the martin house, the guaranty building, and the richardson.

we feel our failures so keenly well that sometimes we don't even recognize our successes.

Tim
Tim

Well then, let's hope this lottery ticket pays off. Spin the wheel, pat!

No one is saying the Martin house isn't worth refurbishing, but holy crap. I was in there years ago when the visitors center (very nice) was being finished. They had one craftsman working in the house, and it was just really hard to imagine that 40 million or so had already been spent up to that point. Also, just because they 'expect' the investment to pay for itself within 5 years does not make it so. It's possible, but get back to me after the fact.

To turn this positive, big props to the donors and caretakers for seeing this through.

Travelrrr
Travelrrr

I wasn't suggesting re-directing the Jacobs' gift. I was suggesting that we earmark some of the indirect/direct revenue from our cultural tourism, of which the DMH is an integral part, for a preservation fund....to buttress some of our other historic properties.

I actually do believe this investment will pay itself off in short order; for one, it truly instigated the concept of cultural tourism in Buffalo, which lured in $4MM from ONE conference last year alone.

hamp
hamp

Revolving loan fund is the way to go. I believe there is a good model for one in Boston.

The fund is available to quickly purchase a property that is endangered. Once the building is redeveloped, the loan is paid back. The money is then used to support other old buildings threatened by the wrecking ball.

nyc
nyc

I believe it will pay off. It will be a major attraction and will bring people to Buffalo who will spend money. I live in NYC (obviously) and a principle at my office and her husband will be taking a trip to Buffalo just for this house (when complete) and my sister in law in Pittsburgh and her entire book club are heading to Buffalo this spring for the purpose of visiting the Martin House. Also separately my father and mother in law plan to pass through buffalo again (after visiting the albright knox the first time this past fall) to go to the Martin House as they ran out of time to previously. None of these people have (had) very high opinions of the city but have found a real reason to go there. Cultural tourism is not some joke, it pays and it will for Buffalo especially when you start to build a critical mass of things to do that have real appeal - and the Albright Knox and Martin House are huge attractions in that regard. You can't look at it as just one house.

JM
JM

I see your point but just think of the possibilities of $50 Million elsewhere. You could totally renovate an entire neighborhood for that much. I'm not complaining just explaining why some people might not be keen on spending so much money on 1 house.

I hope it shows me up and makes double what is expected.

DeanerPPX
DeanerPPX

Or, we could just not spend a dime on it and let it rot into the ground so it become yet another empty field that does nothing to attract people or money.

They expect the investment to pay itself off in five years or less. Are we THAT short-sighted that we can't look forward ten years to a time when this brings visitors, cash, or pride to the city???

You can't even win the lottery if you don't spend the buck to buy a ticket. This is no different than investing money in the city's parks, roads, businesses or housing.

YesSir
YesSir

I actually agree with you but you cannot re-purpose money like this, ethically it is just plain wrong. It would however serve a much better purpose than this project. Although I want the DMH to succeed, and it has already greatly appreciated sales transfers of nearby properties, this pet project has been oversold and given way too much in taxpayers dollars already. I mean Jesus, how much money can you really spend on this thing people. Tim is dead on with his comments.

Jacobs should have given it to UB, but alas it his choice and he could care less what I have to say.

Travelrrr
Travelrrr

Think we could take some of that $20MM and start a preservation/revolving fund for some of Buffalo's other historic properties?

Tim
Tim

Good to hear they can now afford to another stained glass window. And maybe a planter out front.

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