1/29/2007

Biting my Tongue...

First mentioned this house - 97 Dodge, last summer after I attended my first Coe Place block club meeting. Been drawn to it ever since. Not including what looks to be like a magnificent attic, this single family home has more than 2600 sq ft of living space. The City of Buffalo has owned it since November '05.
IMG_4001
On Saturday, during the Artspace Backyard walking tour, we noticed that 97 Dodge has been marked for demolition. While I fully understand that we can't save every building here in the City, I believe that we have to be strategic with how we approach demolition. 97 Dodge is located one block from Main Street and two blocks from both Artspace and the Summer Street Station. Here's the map. The house appears to sit straight on the foundation and despite the graffiti and a few broken windows the house is in excellent condition. Another view from June 2006.
update 1/30/07...1130am...
Make sure to check out these two spots, too. Both City owned!
115 Northampton Street
93 Riley Street
At a minimum, a very small part of the 12-15K that will be spent demolishing this place could be used to mothball this house. In a few years when the market catches up to this block...presto, way cool house.

Let me know what you think, especially considering its location.
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9 comments:

Harvey Garrett said...

The fasted way to reverse a city demo order is to have a structural engineer go through the property and send a letter with his/ her official stamp on it to the inspections department indicating that it is structurally sound.

Since most properties on the demo list are structurally sound this alone won't be enough. Most inspectors push for demo when they feel the investment required to bring the building into compliance exceeds the value of the neighboring properties - the best way to combat this is to find an owner willing to make the rehab investment. Given it's location this should be doable - but not quick.

I'd recommend the following steps:

1) Get a temporary stay on the demo if it's imminent through Rich Tobe - ask for 2 months to come up with a plan

2) Get permission for a structural engineer to go through the property through John Hannan's office (structural engineer's reports can cost a few hundred dollars but it shouldn't be difficult to find someone who will do it for free).

3) Clean the property up as much as possible and get some UB or Buff State students (or anyone else with the skills) to do some drawings of what it will look like once it's restored. This will speed the sales process tremendously. Remove the graffiti before you post any more pictures of it. I'll come help remove it if you need help.

4) Get agreement from John Hannan's office (with some help from Tobe) to transfer the property for a dollar - not a fast process but doable.

5) Start marketing it like you owned it. Look for either an owner occupant or an investor who will only sell to a homeowner first, then as a 2nd choice someone who will do a great job of fixing it up and renting it (bette than demo).

Time for an all out marketing blitz. I'm willing to help.

Harvey

fix buffalo said...

Harvey,

Thanks for the quick response. Sounds like a plan.

I'll draft the letter to RT send it to you for quick review as a first step.

Down on your help with the marketing.

gabe said...

Great house! Its current state of neglect is indeed saddening.

Building on what Harvey said, the house, if fixed up, would make a great starter home. Would be a nice alternative to the vinyl crap being built nearby. However, the structure's massive size poses the outcome of enormous heating and maintenance costs--way to big for a family on a tight budget.

Perhaps breaking the building up into 2 units would work better, the first floor being a spacious "granny flat", with the 2nd and 3rd making a very nice owner unit. Or maybe section 8 apartments where the landlord uses a strict screening process to find decent tenants.

I wouldn't count on "the market turning around" in this area anytime soon as a strategy. As you have said yourself many times, the city is still losing people by the day. Until Buffalo sees actual job and subsequent population growth, there will be little incentive for discerning upmarket homebuyers to move outside their comfort zones in the city's more desirable neighborhoods.

Whatever happens, there needs to be a coherent neighborhood-wide plan in order for these gems to be saved and see viable re-uses.

Harvey Garrett said...

I agree with the need for a neighborhood-wide plan, but I disagree on this neighborhood not turning around any time soon.

This is what I was told for years on the West Side, and this neighborhood has a lot more going for it than what we started with West of Richmond.

This is a great neighborhood - it just needs to be showed off more.

Harvey

MJ said...

Well, I was on the walk Sat. with David, and I must admit this house has had my creativity running wild.

Funny that this house was on the final part of the walk that David asked us if we wouldn't mind walking to one more place. (it was cold and drizzly out)

I've been looking for a while for a forsaken fixer-upper. Something I could work thru a few rooms at a time. But have mostly been looking at 2-3 story brick buildings. For some reason this one did get me thinking. For some reason I feel my life will be imcomplete until I accomplish this. Ever since my mom moved out of the BCT area while I was away at college in the mid-90's, I've felt empty not living in the city.

If I recall properly there is one vacant lot behind it, and two next to it, which I think it would make a great propery combined. I would throw a garage of off Edna Place or next to it on Dodge.

All the grafitti is on the vinyl which I would remove anyways for a proper paint job on the clap board. The roof looks like new.

Its pry begging for a full gut so with new windows and throwing in new insulation in the walls heating wouldn't be all that bad. I'm not saying I'd want to heat the full 2600 sgft on my own but I'm already heating 1800 in my current house for just myself. And an attic like that was meant to be cleared out for indoor floor hockey anyways ;)

Is only 3-4 blocks from the medical campus, 2 from the metro rail, two from Artspace etc.

I went back after the walk to grab a few more pictures of it. A grandmother walked by with her two grand children and stopped to talk with me. Asking if I was going to buy it, restore it etc. Actually said she wish she had the means to. I think people don't give the residents of the area as much respect as they deserve. There are a number who wish they could do more themselves for it.

On topic of another blog post of David's: having a critical mass of owners in the area who are currently in the area rehabbing/etc to share thier knowledge and commitment would go a long way in bring in more to do the same. As highlighted above, west of Richmond was once left for dead only to show great progress. the garden walks through there are eye opening.

I'd be very curious to learn what would be available in tackling this house. (or another) As in cost to pry from city, ability to obtain all 3 lots, any grants, tax credits, energy-star loans, low-interest rehab loans, etc) to make it semi-viable, realizing that a lot of work would be done by me where possible and that I may die of old age in the place someday before I ever made any real money off of it. But who would want to move anyways? And I could just pick up a few duplexes in the burbs for that retirement fund.

I'd love to see the inside and would help with any clean-up etc.

bill said...

i just recently found your blog. i find it fascinating, informative and heartbreaking. i restore early 20th century houses in florida, and the houses on dodge and utica which you have featured have piqued my interest. i have not visited buffalo in many years, and i have no working knowledge of the city. what is the neighborhood like? do you have any pictures of the surrounding neighborhood? are these houses in the midst of newer vinyl pods? are the houses located in historic districts or preservation zones? how is the tax situation (income and property)? do you have any pictures of the interiors of these houses? are either of these houses close to sympathetic preservationists? are either of these buildings available for purchase,
or has their fate already been sealed? is the city's building and permitting department easy to work with, or is it a bureaucratic pain? thanks so much for any info you or your readers may provide.

Jefferson said...

Just for comparative purposes: a house like this (even in the same condition) in DC would likely fetch around 250K. Those running the show in Buffalo should be ASHAMED to let grand old houses like this deteriorate.

fix buffalo said...

Appreciate all the comments. Really.

Too often things run amuck - pesonally and well here as in planning wise - when things are not done with care or deliberation.

Seems like at times (more often than not) there is a direct line connecting our personal lives with the built environment. The "ancients" knew all about the connection between the soul and "polis"...we've forgotten. No wonder we end up with crap in our lives.

When I moved into the neighborhood, my place had been boarded for 8 years or so. Slowly, I revealed my home. I still see beauty underneath the boards at 97 Dodge. And very much will work with others who see the same...

MJ said...

I don't even know if it is just officials, though they could offer up some sweet incentives to bring people back into areas like this instead of letting it slide into zero tax value.

But like most older cities, it is a culture of too much cheap land, too much cheap travel, and the desire of most to hide themselves out in a cul-de-sac somewhere instead of fighting to perserve what already exists. There is no incentive to rebuild in our socitey. We tell our children not to waste and to respect and take care of thier stuff. Yet we can easily see we as citizens don't practice what we preach.

The citizens of Erie County should be just as ashamed as politicians for what was left behind in thier exodus and continued neglect. Gov't can (and should) set up a favorable scheme, but they can't make people come back or care.

The few re-pioneers who risk sticking it out or risk venturing back in are the start of the slow process of sharing and developing the love and respect for an area that will turn it around. Changing preconceptions is no easy task, especially when effort/risk is required on those you are trying to change.