The 500 Block of Main Street needs your help!

Remember this past summer when the 500 Block of Main Street went to great lengths to beautify a run down old alleyway? It was a tremendous effort that paid off for the district, mainly because a neglected eyesore was turned into a vibrant and popular artistic feature. Now the company that operates the pass through, Allpro Parking LLC has notified the neighborhood that they intend to erect a fence along Main Street, thus preventing people from walking across what is private property. To me, I’m perplexed and upset that this is the ‘thanks’ that some people get for attempting to clean up this city. At the same time, Allpro has been kind enough to allow neighbors to come up with an alternate solution that the company may or may not consider. I understand that there are liability issues now that more people are accessing the property, but this is Main Street… and for the first time in decades we are seeing public and private investment. 
Why put a fence up now, after all these years?
While this may not appear to be catastrophic news to some, there is hope that the artists, the community and friends of the 500 Block who have been promoting the area as an artistic and friendly block may be able to come up with a better alternative than a fence… quick! “The private lot adjacent to MAIN(ST)UDIOS is more than an unused alley,” said Erica Eichelkraut Zilbauer, gallery manager MAIN(ST)UDIOS. “It is a part of our streetscape and a piece of the 500 Block community. It is an opening in the block that has endless potential. Cities around the world have transformed empty lots and unused alleyways into productive civic spaces that benefit the surrounding neighborhoods; this is our chance to learn from these examples & create something truly unique to Buffalo. While there are many ideas bouncing around, the concept of an “art alley” seems to be on the top of the list. 
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“An outdoor courtyard where downtown workers can sit & eat their lunch, read a book or play checkers on painted benches and tables, surrounded by murals, sculptures and garden boxes is my personal dream. We can re-use older furniture and planters, have artists contribute work and create the first ever public ‘artyard’ within the downtown business district. This is all very do-able, however the major problem we are facing is the liability issue, the fact that Allpro wants monthly rent on the lot, and that they notified us at the end of the business day yesterday and have allowed only ONE week to pull together proposals and gather funding, with no guarantee that they will accept any ideas offered.
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“The 500 Block has gained so much momentum over the past year, and created a name for itself as new arts destination. The current mural (over 60′ long, created this July by three local artists) has become a huge draw for the 500 Block; the threat of a fence that will cover this up is heart-breaking. 
“Fencing the area off will only create another dead-zone on the block. I don’t see any difference here than having another empty, abandoned storefront. I also do not understand how they will be able to proceed with this without having gone before the Preservation Board, as this is a historic district. 
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“What happens to this lot is important to the block, to downtown and to Buffalo. It is a clear cut example of a private company being given the opportunity to assist their community in change OR hinder all of the current efforts. I anxiously await the outcome.”
We are hoping that Buffalo Rising readers might be able to help solve the issue and come up with a solution that benefits all parties, sooner rather than later.
If you think that you can help Erica and her friends, please send her an email.
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About the author  ⁄ WCPerspective

Buffalo and development junkie currently exiled in California.

23 comments
BuffaloQPublic
BuffaloQPublic

If there’s to be obstruction, it would be nice for it to be something artsy, creative and/or colorful. Another thought would be a barrier made in a reclaimed/repurposed materials mode.

P.S. The artwork added to the large cement flower container in the 500 block is flavorful. Hopefully, there will be more transformations.

whatever
whatever

You might be referring to the Kelo decision, but that one famously (or infamously) added privately owned economic dev projects as a public use for which eminent domain can be lawful. In that case, a city was trying to take some homeowners' land for a pharmaceutical company's use.

It isn't clear how the city taking this parcel at this point with a Kelo-type justification of economic dev would hold up in court - unless/until somebody seriously offers to build something on it, and if that happens that might offer high enough $ that the owner would sell it anyway.

Kelo aside, if the city wanted to take something like this by eminent domain for some use other than economic dev, I suppose they could try that ... but what would they say that public use is for this? Just occasional hang out? And should the city really want to own and maintain it indefinitely? It's a little vacant lot between Main St and a parking lot, in center here http://goo.gl/maps/3wWIW

Cam33r4
Cam33r4

I think if they got the community involved in maintaining the area (like you said with locking the gate at night and stuff), that would be awesome!!

grad94
grad94

designated food truck zone.

John 501
John 501

As one of the only residents of the 500 block at this time, it saddens me to see a fence there.

I would love to see a building be put in there to complete the fabric of the block. (but then we lose the murals) But as Buffalo roamer has indicated, the dog waste is disgusting and I have many times cleaned up after others along with my own dogs waste. If benches are put in there to make it "comfortable" I fear it will become a haven to loiter in after hours. (And many times I walk my dogs after hours and really don't want to confront vagrants hanging in there. My thought is...Let Allpro put up a fence ( a nice one ) something that will fit with the ere of the buildings, maybe black wrought iron. Put a gate on it that can lock. Have the city grant us some funds to put benches, planters, etc in there and have a "path" thats safe to walk on go from one entrance to the other. The balance of the space can be gravel or some low-no maintenance material. Put a camera in it to make certain those using the space for their dogs will clean up and the vagrants will also stay away. Lighting is a must!!! Last, I will be willing to "lock" the gates every night so it can't become a "hangout" after hours. And open them in the morning.

I'm sure me and my fellow 500 block members can perform the small maintenance to keep it up.

Recently while in NY, I saw a spot so similar and it was really quite nice. They used grass, which I wouldn't use as I don't want to mow it. (that's why I moved to the city, no lawn to mow). But it was a small compact comfortable space to walk through.

Just a thought!!!

Polonia
Polonia

That mural makes that de-militirized zone look pretty damn good.

Rand503
Rand503

Sure, why not? If the place is so bloody dangerous that we need a fence, then surely it's a public hazard. But under the SCOTUS decision several years ago, a government need only show that the takings (with proper payment of fair market value) is perfectly legal, so long as there is a public benefit. It's a very low legal bar, and so can be done in a wide variety of circumstances.

If the owner refuses to sell, then the city, county or state may take it from him, so long as they pay him fair market value, and show that the takings is for a public benefit. The city could then do what it likes with it -- sell it to a developer to put up a building, make a park out of it, or just keep it as is.

I'm sure that if the city threatens eminant domain, the owner will see the wisdom of keeping the space open to the public.

PaulBuffalo
PaulBuffalo

You want to eminent domain a vacant lot? Yikes.

Rand503
Rand503

you can fall and twist your ankle anywhere. It's something EVERY single property owner in America has to deal with. this is not a unique situation. Furthermore, that's why insurance was created -- to deal with this things.

I don't see the space trampled upon -- it seems eveyrone is doing everything to in fact "make it nice." If the owner had no problem with the space being open in the past, then why the sudden concern now?

Will this be one of those cheap ugle chain link fences? The type that are so ugly they are banned in the city of Chicago?

Rand503
Rand503

Refuses to sell? Then let's use eminent domain to take it for public use.

buffaloroamer
buffaloroamer

Many. many issues are surrounding this "alley". First and foremost, Allpro manages the property, not owns it. It is owned by a suburbanite that refuses to sell. Allpro uses it to store the snow in winter.

Liability is an issue as walking on gravel can make a person turn an ankle and sue....someone.

There are plenty of small urban parks and spaces in cities that thrive and become a "nice Place", but I don't think we have the population to make that happen here. After hours it will only beocme a "home" for the homeless.

As it is now, I have seen many people "clean up" after their dogs, but many do not....so if you make it nice, who will keep it that way. Are the 500 block people ready to take on that challenge??

It is a welcome vision to see that mural and the draw it has created, too bad it can't be improved on.

300miles
300miles

"come up with a better alternative than a fence."

If they're so upset about people using their "alley", then they should put a building there.

Cam33r4
Cam33r4

Typical. It's like some of these companies literally don't care about Buffalo at all. Finally somebody actually decides to spruce things up a bit to make them more appealing, but no. Well I just hope something happens so the fence doesn't get put up...

5to81ALLDAY
5to81ALLDAY

thats actually a pretty awesome mural. 100% in favor of street art

Rich Tomasello
Rich Tomasello

"It's their property they should be able to do what they want to it."

Or, "Hey guys, before you start to paint that awesome mural, we're thinking about fencing it off for safety purposes. You might want to pick a different wall."

If they fence this off it's a tragedy and a shame.

SadLlama
SadLlama

I'd suggest if Allpro goes through with their plans to erect a fence the 500 block association should petition the city to enforce the parking lot boundaries. As it stands today the lot is paved right into Brunk Alley (the street directly behind the buildings parallel to Main). I'm sure this was done to accommodate an extra row of vehicles which encroaches on city property.

RaChaCha
RaChaCha

Allpro's ONE WEEK ULTIMATUM is outrageous. And how disrespectful to the incredible strides that have been made on this block in just the last year -- and the striders.

FWIW, I'll be glad to pitch in with planning for alternative uses.

GroveyClevesYall
GroveyClevesYall

"haters" ---The only reason why they want a fence up is because a little strip of gravel that looked like a rape spot is now an interesting space. So, more people are walking though it to check it out..

rpm40
rpm40

What a buzzkill a fence would be. Really, they should do some research to see what is expected of property owners in these types of situations. Property owners aren't held to such strict standards when it comes to what are essentially "tresspassers"- some kind of simple warning sign near the entrance might be all that is needed if liability is the concern.

LouisTully
LouisTully

Bring out the haters.

"It's their property they should be able to do what they want to it."

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