September 2012: Letter from the editor
When we published our first architecture issue in the summer of 2006, we included a spread entitled “Buffalo’s most endangered.” It included images of thirty-one buildings, most of which were dilapidated and in imminent danger of being demolished. Six years after that issue was published, we have continued our coverage of preservation and reuse in Western New York, and what emerges from that coverage is—on the whole—a success story. While some of the structures in that spread have been demolished (three to make room for the new federal courthouse, three from continued deterioration), a surprising number of them are now revitalized commercial or residential properties. One, 918-920 Main Street, is highlighted in this month’s Preservation Ready column, and I could have easily mentioned its neighboring buildings at 844-870 Main, 888 Main, and 878 Main—all vacant eyesores in 2006, and now a popular apartment complex, a corporate headquarters, and a restaurant, respectively. A poster child for blight in 2006, the 800 block of Main Street is becoming a model for adaptive reuse.
Scanning the rest of that “most endangered” spread, I see the Webb building, the 100 block of Genesee, the Graystone, and the former St. Vincent’s Female Orphan Asylum. All either have been redeveloped or are in the process of being so. The Webb is filled with market-rate loft spaces, the 100 block is now the Gateway complex, and St. Vincent’s is now a charter school. We published a story about the former Breckenridge Church (also in the 2006 spread) in January 2011; still vacant in 2011, it has since been purchased by a local developer.
Historic architecture is becoming big business in Western New York. Although some preservation advocates predicted it could be back in 2006, there were fewer believers then than there are now. As we continue the Preservation Ready series, we are hoping to report on more potential successes; when vacant structures become occupied apartment buildings, stores, restaurants, and offices, neighborhoods win. When neighborhoods win, Buffalo gets better.
Here’s to getting better,