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Let Me Clarify | Buffalo Rising

Let Me Clarify

So I wanted to talk a little more about this building.  I muddled my message a bit in yesterday’s post on this property by including my thoughts on Nick Sinatra’s Buffalo Spree interview.  Although related to my point, it actually sent the conversation into an unintended direction so here it is clearly.

Look at the condition of this building on Pearl Street downtown.  Can anyone honestly say that the condition of this building is OK?  What does this building say about Buffalo? What should a young Canadian hockey player think when he walks to his hotel past this mess?  To me it says the people of this city don’t give a damn. Is that true?  Do the people not give a damn? Does this building convey pride of place or does it say I can’t wait to get the F out of here?
Certainly, it is hard to imagine that the owner who filled in the windows of this building with concrete blocks and striped off much of its masonry detail gave a a damn about Buffalo.  This “remodeling” was likely an expedient way of fixing a problem of some sort suiting the owner’s goals just fine. It looks like the owner felt zero responsibility to the city from which profits are being drawn. This wall of concrete windows is just a big FU to the city of Buffalo.  Oh yea I know, property rights blah blah blah – move to Buffalo then – blah blah blah – why don’t you buy it – blah blah blah. This building looks like shit and it shits all over the city street. Property rights don’t give you the right to crap on your neighbors and this is just what this building is doing. 
The individual properties of the city do belong to individuals but the city belongs to EVERYONE.  When you wreck a building as this one has been wrecked you also wreck the city.  For much too long people in Buffalo have accepted this kind of property management as a normal thing as if that is just the way things have to be in Buffalo.  Wake up!  It is not normal!  It is not the way it has to be! It is the way it is allowed to be. People in Buffalo need to start demanding that owners take responsibility for the effect their property management (or lack there of)  has on the city as a whole. 
It is not OK to have trees growing from your roof?  It is not OK to sit and hold a building with no investment for decades?  It is not OK to strip all the valuable elements from a Church and leave it as  a shell?  It is not OK to block up all the windows with concrete blocks! Buffalo deserves better than this, not just on this street but throughout the city. Demand responsible building ownership! 
garage now.jpg

About the author  ⁄ david steele

54 comments
sonyactivision
sonyactivision

yep, replace with shimmering glass tower please.

RPreskop
RPreskop

This building is an aesthetically ugly scar on probably the most historic part of Pearl Street. Unfortunately, it has been stripped of all its architectural beauty and dignity so either a complete reconstruction of the exterior similar to the successful mixed use Avant on Delaware Avenue or a complete demolition and clearence.

whatever
whatever

grad - so instead of math and facts that Rs have repeatedly grown the size of government - not eliminated its existence, nor even shrunk it - you point to one sentence (which btw, you're severely misinterpreting if you really think even that was saying government doesn't have any "legitimate purposes" or "right to exist") from a speech 32 years ago by someone who's been dead for 8 years now?

Seriously?

I suppose to try that reasoning, I could grab any Jimmy Carter sentences of my choice and say those represent the D party?

But anyhow - aside from cherry picking sentences from people who've been out of power a very long time - you're completely misinterpreting that Reagan sentence if you're really arguing it says government has no "legitimate purposes" and no "right to exist".

That sentence and speech didn't say or imply that the existence of government is a problem. Nothing in that whole speech or in any of Reagan's countless public statements over many decades ever said or implied that.

Clearly his context was criticizing particular behaviors/actions of government at the time. Look at the first four words "In the current crisis, ..."

Good summary of that economic crisis he was referring to is here - including high unemployment, negative growth, inflation over 12%, and interest rates over 20%.

The whole speech is worth reading...

http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Ronald_Reagan%27s_First_Inaugural_Address

… but here's a few sentences of context from it leading to the sentence you chose, which of course doesn't at all say government doesn't have a legitimate right to exist:

"… These United States are confronted with an economic affliction of great proportions. We suffer from the longest and one of the worst sustained inflations in our national history. It distorts our economic decisions, penalizes thrift, and crushes the struggling young and the fixed- income elderly alike. It threatens to shatter the lives of millions of our people.

The economic ills we suffer have come upon us over several decades. They will not go away in days, weeks, or months, but they will go away. They will go away because we, as Americans, have the capacity now, as we have had in the past, to do whatever needs to be done to preserve this last and greatest bastion of freedom.

In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem. …"

Again - logically - just because somebody doesn't want government to grow or control as much as _you_ want it to doesn't mean he or she favors anarchy.

BuffaloBlue
BuffaloBlue

Travelrrr, I'm 50/50 on adaptive reuse for industrial. I like Larkinville for reuse as those buildings are not the shell around a shell like Trico. Most conversions even into modern industrial uses fit this. Just look across the street at M Wile or the Innovation Center portion of the complex.

Where Trico Plant 1 has a problem is the interior is not contiguous floor plates and everything is on different levels with twists and turns. The ceilings in the building are not as high as you think because the floor plates are like 1 ft. of concrete in places.

If this was 100,000 sq ft it would be a no brainer, but this is over 6 times that. I don't say fast track it, but I would not want protesting if a good plan is put forth to build a building that brings people into downtown to live, work and play.

Jesse
Jesse

"Elect better leadership"

ZOMG good luck with that one, and it's the most important thing on your list?

Jesse
Jesse

So would switching to a land value tax.

davvid
davvid

Its a funny idea to imagine some Bauhaus purist traveling to Buffalo, NY just to chip ornament off of a parking garage.

I agree with STEEL on this. These alternations are not connected to any high-minded architectural idea. You'd be better off blaming the inventor of concrete block.

Travelrrr
Travelrrr

You had me until "industrial buildings need to be demolished"--this made my skin crawl.

Do people not get that re-used industrial is the new chic, and that cities around the globe would give their left arms (if they had them) for our industrial heritage...to adaptively reuse.

So, no, don't demolish the industrial. Not at all.

BuffaloBlue
BuffaloBlue

Steele, I appreciate your input and your work on forums outside of this have lead me to BRO.

I work in a newer downtown structure that took blight out of the downtown. But based on the GIS we are in the Lower West Side... who knew.

Anyway, I think the City should make surface lots w/o some kind of maintained facade illegal. I like the Augsberger part that fronts W. Huron... Unfortunately there's a parking lot across from it. I think the city needs to use eminent domain and build ramps like Rochester did, but we have the buildings to support it.

I think there's other things to focus on such as a convention block from Franklin, Mohawk, Huron, Delaware. Think incorporate the Crosby building and demolish the rest. This way we have the capacity for the mid-sized shows that can combine the new, current. Statler, Hyatt, Embassy, etc. into that Indianapolis convention district (small scale).

Lets move on and get the economy flowing and encourage investment in Buffalo. Enough with the negative as it is bad on Buffalo. Look for the positive.

I understand preserving the past in Buffalo, But industrial buildings need to be demolished and precedent needs to be set for facades.

whatever
whatever

I'll start just letting it go again one of these days, but some of you are so over the top with your extremism lately (or perhaps I'm just noticing it more lately), that I can't resist asking….

grad>"both government and cities have legitimate purposes and a right to exist, which is not a sentiment that one tends to associate with republicans"

Are the any (even one?) examples of any R's saying any of….

- cities don't have _any_ legitimate purposes?

- cities don't have _any_ right to exist?

- government doesn't have _any_ legitimate purposes?

- government doesn't have _any_ right to exist?

Just because anyone feels government should have fewer purposes than you feel it has or should have, isn't at all the same as them saying it doesn't have any legitimate purposes at all.

Consider the 8 years of GWB, during which R's controlled both houses of Congress for 6 of those years...

http://mercatus.org/publication/spending-under-president-george-w-bush

"… Although Social Security and Medicare spending growth outpaced most other programs in the mid-1990s, spending growth in discretionary programs has accelerated in the last 15 years, especially during Bush’s two terms.

Between FY2002 and FY2009, discretionary spending rose 96 percent.

...

President Bush added thousands of new federal subsidy programs during his eight years in office. In 2008, there were 1,816 subsidy programs in the federal budget that spread hundreds of billions of dollars annually to special interest groups such as state governments, businesses, nonprofit groups, and individuals. The number of subsidy programs has grown by 30 percent since 2000 and by 54 percent since 1990. …"

Does that seem like a party who feels government has no legitimate purpose or right to exist?

whatever
whatever

Steel>"It is not a matter of laws. … We cannot make pride a legal requirement but if the community accepts this kind of crud as OK this is what they will get."

Okay, I agree with you that laws aren't feasible for that building's wall appearance - but then what does 'community accepts' mean in the above?

And 'demand' at end of your article were it says 'Demand responsible building ownership!' - what does demand mean?

How practically would the demanding and the not accepting be implemented for that specific parking garage you gave as your example?

None of the 10-steps in your reply to RobH look like anything 'the community' could do to cause that garage's owner (or a previous owner) to spend more money for a nicer looking wall. Not even a mayoral press conference in front of it to moralize and inflict shame.

(How have results been over the years for the many well meaning public demands from the mayor and others in the community to end violence?)

Buff2020
Buff2020

I was specifically talking this building. I was hoping that BR readers would propose a cool deign to paint the cinder block infill or other low cost improvements to the facade and then provide an analysis that went something like this: The cost of these facade improvements are $20,000. $10,000 match is available from the Main Street Grant Program. That leaves a balance of $10,000. I have no idea how many spaces are in the building or how many are monthly verses daily but if you assume that there are 100 spaces and 200 parking days, an extra .50 per spot per day would provide a 1 yr payback on the investment and a additional $10,000 profit in year two. If you engaged the owner and got really creative, you could probably get NYSERDA to add no cost short payback energy improvements.

BuffaloQPublic
BuffaloQPublic

Not exactly in the same pew comment-wise but it brings to mind the patched places in City Hall.

Perhaps the City would have better luck if some of the broken bathroom mirrors were replaced. Some departments' carpeting is a storybook page of stains. Wondering if the strategic planning area has replaced the in-shreds, ancient roller shades.

Steele mentions “lack of pride.” The keepers of the landmark at Niagara Square may need a refresher course on the subject.

Perhaps they are falling short in enforcement on neglectful or out-of-step building owners because there is a proverbial beam in their eye.

grad94
grad94

i get where you're coming from. our leadership has not exactly been known for integrity, good urban planning principles, and anything else you want to add to the list.

but as democrats, i'll give them this: they believe that both government and cities have legitimate purposes and a right to exist, which is not a sentiment that one tends to associate with republicans.

pfk67
pfk67

You know a few sad thoughts cross my mind.

1. I really have to pinch myself to think of the Bethlehem Steel bldg being gone. It's almost to stupid to imagine.

2. I am 45 and I can tell you the Buffalo I grew up in had already torn down many great great buildings. I of course didn't know because I was too young. But now I see these buildings in pictures and I .... shake my head. Imagine if these buildings still existed? How great would it be to see them and see them preserved.

3. Lastly, for the last ....70 yrs we have had the worst leaders in the country and most of them were democrats. It reminds me of something my Mom used to tell me growing up. "If you keep doing the same things, you're going to get the same results." How much can we all take before we finally say enough and elect someone who isn't the candidate we like, but the candidate who will make some smart decisions that are good for the city. The longer this continues, the more ridiculous we appear to the rest of the country.

https://me.yahoo.com/a/N18go5EbkZjMKpLcrKLccjw6v4r
https://me.yahoo.com/a/N18go5EbkZjMKpLcrKLccjw6v4r

While the building may be ugly, how do you know how it is structurally? Did you inspect it yourself?

Any building can be modified and updated to look and perform better if it is structurally sound. The builder just needs some creativity and imagination.

Old First Ward
Old First Ward

First of all, if you are going to write a story about a building, include a succinct history of the structure, identify the owner, and include any other pertinent facts such as the address. (I already did this for you). How about posting some other views as well? Maybe even contact the owner to elicit any comment in their defense.

I wouldn't worry too much about young hockey players, most young people don't care about architecture and even fewer care about our buildings. The concern lies mostly with urban planning students and the baby boomer generation. It is a very small pocket of the population. But a dedicated one at that.

While I agree with your accountability diatribe, the grassroots activism starts in blogs like this. Until the editorial staff seriously considers upgrading the interface of this site, any serious discussion is EXTREMELY limited to shortcomings of the website. Think about it this way, myself, and a couple others have complained and attempted to reach out to anyone who will listen to improve this site and guess what? All we get is silence. That includes you. Now contrast that with your complaints about building facades, to which I fully support. Change all the words about this structure in your story with "this site" and now you realize OUR frustrations. If I called you to place an ad, I would probably get flooded with e-mails and followups. The crickets are chirping.

STEEL
STEEL

You are right buffalo is just as bad as NYC. Need to change anythin

RobH
RobH

Sounds like the makings of a mayoral campaign platform.

rockpile
rockpile

Steel,this is actually a great post and one that all city leaders/advocates alike should read and learn from!

RaChaCha
RaChaCha

If you like how this building has been treated, you'll LOVE the new sheet-metal facade on the Seneca Street garage across from the baseball stadium.

sonyactivision
sonyactivision

STEEL writes: "What does this building say about Buffalo? What should a young Canadian hockey player think when he walks to his hotel past this mess? To me it says the people of this city don't give a damn. Is that true?"

If this website would allow us to post pictures I could show everyone the lovely parking lot at 32-34 W.29th St. in Chelsea between the primo Ace Hotel and the upscale Nomad Hotel. What would that "young Canadian(?!) hockey player think of that? In the "World's Greatest City"?

There's sh*t everywhere if you dig deep enough. Buffalo just seems to have more overly self-conscious scolds to blog about it...

STEEL
STEEL

1. Elect better leadership and demand more from them

2. Regionalize planning and most government

3. Let property owners know that they cannot continue to degrade the city.

4. Enforce the city's building code.

5. Discourage the increase in sprawl both in the city and in the suburbs.

6. Enact the proposed Green Code and enforce it.

7. Teach school children in the entire region the history of Buffalo.

8. Correct the tax code so that it no longer incentivizes parking lots and disinvestment.

9. Have the mayor hold press conferences in front of and about buildings like this.

10. Care about your city.

ScreenPass
ScreenPass

Dish it, but can't receive it. I DEMAND better!!!

sonyactivision
sonyactivision

This post has been nominated for a 2013 Lulzy Award. Congratulations STEEL!

RobH
RobH

And your proposal to fix it is...... ??

STEEL
STEEL

It is not a matter of laws. It is a matter of pride and giving back. This crappy remodel job (which which was not likely done by the current owner) shows a lack of pride. We cannot make pride a legal requirement but if the community accepts this kind of crud as OK this is what they will get. Its not that the building has tiny little windows. It is the crummy way that it was done that is the problem. This building says to the people of Buffalo "YOU HAYSEEDS DON"T MATTER"

whatever
whatever

Asking what is or isn't "OK" is fine, but often doesn't have real impact.

Aren't more substantive questions what is or isn't illegal, and what should be illegal if it already isn't?

Now here's a question for Steel, or Daniel, or anyone...

How could the City (even if it wanted to) outlaw upper floors not having larger windows than this parking garage building now has while at the same time it'd still be legal for so many buildings to have huge parts of exterior wall space with no windows at all?

For one example among many hundreds (if not thousands?) across Buffalo, the City Court building (ironically, since it contains Housing Court where a must-have-large-upper floor-windows law would be prosecuted).

The parking garage Steel is criticizing still has some upper floor windows - it's just that they were made much smaller at some point using concrete compared to the larger size they were before.

But even if it had no windows at all - regardless of if it was that way originally or modified - how could that realistically be made illegal?

pfk67
pfk67

I agree with most of this. My generation up and left. We have a gap in our history and with that a gap in the up keep of the city.

The good news is that the generation that has followed has stepped up and is fighting for the city.

The problem is that it is an uphill battle. A battle that is winnable but also one that has heavy odds against it. The generations that made the city great were.... and I hate to say it here, but they were business minded republicans. You know, the ones everybody likes to hate. But they are the ones who invested and brought in great architects and landscape planners, etc...

As everything is cyclical, I think by the time I'm on my deathbed, Buffalo will have renewed itself. Unfortunately, I will not see much of it. But I do love this city and I wish it the best.

benfranklin
benfranklin

I'm not sure this structure looks that much worse than those 'new' parking ramps that are put together like 'lincoln logs' (one across from Niagara Falls Memorial...one at the VA). Not a fan of those.

The building is from 1925. We criticize people for walking away from properties, for not securing them against the elements, and now we don't like how this one has been modified to make it economically viable.

Would we be happier if it were torn down? I agree it's not the most attractive property in the city, but it's an old structure being used.

Thought these two quotes appropriate. From a wiki page - "As Architectural Record has noted, "In the Pantheon of Building Types, the parking garage lurks somewhere in the vicinity of prisons and toll plazas."[11] The New York Times has labeled parking structures as "the grim afterthought of American design".[12]"

paulsobo
paulsobo

The 80 years of years of decline have seen the city fathers and city stewards leave. Those are the people committed to a city, protecting it, nurturing it, advocating it, etc.

The fabric of the middle class left along with the middle class jobs...leaving only the houses and infrasture that once served them.

For 80 years there has been decay and demolition and powerlessness that people could make any change in the direction of the city.

Its not just the demolition but simple things like roofs, gutters, trees, lawns, bushes, curbs, potholes, sidewalks .... there are so many parts of Buffalo that are disengaged to say the last.

The greatness of Buffalo comes out when there is a storm and people need help or at the many sporting and social events...

...but its sad because there is a whole part of Buffalonians that are destitute not just in money but in the history and culture and future in relation to the city.

buffloonitick
buffloonitick

'or even touring musicians for that matter'

even Stevie Wonder would consider this ugly...

Daniel Sack
Daniel Sack

We have "building codes" to protect the health and safety of property owners from themselves and others. Some codes prevent fire from spreading, some plumbing codes prevent the spread of disease, some literally prevent a building from collapsing. People should understand that building codes are the law and are the MINIMUM required.

"Zoning codes" that can include "design standards" help to maintain the value of neighboring property. Some design standards go overboard, like, IMO, regulating color, or insisting on only one style of sign.

Other standards regulate "form" such as height, area, transparency... "Use" standards - obvious. A person in a small residence may not want to have a twenty story building or a junk yard next door.

Build a junk yard next to a home and the value of that home will be less.

Same here. Yes, Webb Lofts are across the street. I believe it is undeniable that the value of the Webb Lofts would be greater if the parking garage looked like it looked before the windows were blocked in. I believe we should regulate just enough so that property values are higher, not lower.

It is good for everyone. We are all in this together.

grad94
grad94

unfortunately, you cannot pretend away the influence of loos, le corbusier, gropius, etc.

Allentwnguy
Allentwnguy

Unfortunately it decreases the bottom line and a homeowners ability to spend on a home by increasing county and city property taxes. So in addition to the initial cost of renovation there is a yearly increase in taxes. Freezing property taxes after a major rehab for a certain time could be an option.

Greg Rittch
Greg Rittch

Buff2020, the economic argument is that (social and individual) costs in the short term will be far outweighed by (social and individual) benefits in the long term. You don't rejuvenate a district of any city overnight. You start by having a vision and adding value through investment, development and legislation.

That's why you start in the areas with positive fundamentals and good real estate potential. Once a couple boarded up houses are fixed up, the neighbor's house goes up in value, he sells to a new neighbor who wants to create more value in the neighborhood, and the cycle continues.

Allentwnguy, that's interesting. Buffalo needs to learn how to incentivize neighborhood development and that happens on the street one house at a time working with landlords to achieve the most effective outcome.

Trying to shame owners instead of taking a legislative approach is obviously not effective. Better zoning and architecture laws would greatly increase outside investor interest in the area as well as maintain existing nice neighborhoods.

Old First Ward
Old First Ward

The address is 93 Pearl St. and it is listed as being built in 1925 and has 239 parking spaces. The owner is Victor Perla Associates Inc.

phrank
phrank

This ramp is also in a historic district, named for Joseph Ellicott who laid out the city street pattern. An new structure of this quality would never be allowed in it. It would be interesting to see this restored as a rare example of a parking structure worth restoring.

Allentwnguy
Allentwnguy

Since moving to Buffalo 12 years ago and being a property owner for 11 years in Allentown I've notice that the City of Buffalo does not know how to use a "carrot". They only know how to use a stick! My first encounter with the city came 2 weeks after I purchased my home with a violations notice from an inspector. I guess they felt they had to let me know things I already knew from inspections and had already been written down in my to-do book. Threaten someone with fines etc does not make them want to comply. But if you offer assistance... Be it information on builders, tradesmen, available low cost loans and grants or even property tax breaks owners would be more apt to want to work on their properties. I know in the historical district we have the 20% tax rebate but have you seen the hoops? And I know personally that money is an issue. Since purchasing my taxes have more than doubled. These homes need a lot of work and playing by the cities rules make costs soar. So people tend to get by and patch where they have to.

elias
elias

this reminds me of a quote a transplanted friend from minnesota once told me (he's since returned to minn..) by g.k. chesterton, "Men did not love Rome because she was great, she was great because they had loved her"...plug Buffalo, our landlords, businesspeople and citizens into this quote and tell me what you think...

Buff2020
Buff2020

I really think you could do a low cost face lift and charge slightly more. Cleaner and brighter feels better and safer.

rubagreta
rubagreta

I can't understand how the owner of this property does not suffer from incredible shame and embarrassment. Can you imagine telling a friend or a relative that you own this eyesore? I realize that fixing it up will not increase the bottom line (drivers don't boycott an ugly parking structure). But have a little pride in your city, and have a little pride in yourself.

Buff2020
Buff2020

What's the economic argument? What would a face lift look like?

How much would it cost? If there are ____ parking spots in the building, how much more could the Owner charge if they invested in the facade? How long would it take recoup the cost? Are there are facade improvement grants / matching funds out there to help the Owner?

Greg Rittch
Greg Rittch

Better zoning would solve these complaints. If you want a city to look a certain way you have to legislate it.

Your other option is to depend on the decency of people in taking care of their properties.

You don't have to look very far in Buffalo to see how well that works.

Buffalo doesn't have to reinvent the wheel. Start with a couple promising neighborhoods, borrow NYC's extensive zoning code, and implement a 2 year plan.

Incentivize landlords to spend money on their properties by allowing owners to write off a portion of the costs of bringing their building up to code.

That's what I think and a lot of people have said the same thing. Now the City needs to do something about it.

John Niezgoda
John Niezgoda

MAYBE. But look at all the development going on in the city because we're holding our authorities responsible. I could go on with all the development that's taking place. THINK ABOUT IT A LITTLE BIT YOU FOOLS.

nick
nick

Can anyone recall when the glass block was replaced with the CMU? I'm assuming this work was all permitted and approved. The problem are the building codes, if this work was permitted and was the cheapest solution it's no surprise the owner chose it. I'm sure he saw little value in having a good looking parking garage so it's up to regulation to force a higher standard of design.

STEEL
STEEL

I would take issue with your second last paragraph. THis has nothing to do with modernism. This has to do with selfishness, lack of pride and an accepting population.

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