1/30/2009

State of the City

There's a slight lag here. Mayor Brown takes the stage at the 36 minute mark. So slide the thingy to the right to miss the air.


I'm running the audio in the background and hearing this for the first time.
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ArtspaceBAVPAWoodlawn Row HousesfixBuffalo flickr
Creative ClassShrinking CitiesSaturdays in the neighborhood

1/27/2009

Church Sale

I drove by Queen of Peace last week and noticed the sign.
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Located at 1955 Genesee Street in Buffalo's Schiller Park neighborhood, the structure seems to be in great shape. Buffalo's architectural firm of Dietel and Wade designed the church in 1920, a few short years before they broke ground on Buffalo's art deco masterpiece, City Hall in September 1929. Here's the short history compiled by James Napora. Karl Josker, a local Buffalo photographer, has a pic of the building's sanctuary, here.
If you're interested in the future of heritage buildings such as Queen of Peace you may want to visit The Buffalo Religous Arts Center for additional information. Their first newsletter became available a few days ago.

I called twice last week and haven't heard anything about the asking price.
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ArtspaceBAVPAWoodlawn Row HousesfixBuffalo flickr
Creative ClassShrinking CitiesSaturdays in the neighborhood

New Smart Blog

Picture 1
Buffalo's newest blog - Joe the Planner - debuted yesterday!
...in my humble opinion, there are scant few good urban planning blogs, so I wanted to create an enlightening, provocative, and entertaining forum for planning-focused issues in my hometown of Buffalo, NY.
"Joe" - covers the city's parking issue with his first post - Putting parking in its proper place.
The fresh angle is this: the city doesn't need to add another high-priced manager and yet another layer of bureaucracy. We can get much better management of downtown transportation/parking assets if we better utilize the resources we've already got. Private companies routinely reorganize management structures to adapt to changing conditions, so why can't the city?
On a related note, fixBuffalo readers may remember this pic from MJ's AirBuffalo series - yikes!
I'll be adding "Joe" to my daily read.
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ArtspaceBAVPAWoodlawn Row HousesfixBuffalo flickr
Creative ClassShrinking CitiesSaturdays in the neighborhood

1/16/2009

Sacred Heart - Part II

The Sacred Heart School on Emslie Street is almost dust. Here's the first post - Wind and 25 Years of Neglect. This is last week's demolition pic.
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It was too cold and snowy today for what's left. Next week.
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ArtspaceBAVPAWoodlawn Row HousesfixBuffalo flickr
Creative ClassShrinking CitiesSaturdays in the neighborhood

Home Finder - Coe Place

The rehab of the Hamiltion Ward House was completed a few months ago on one of Midtown's most resurgent streets, Coe Place. A few fixBuffalo readers emailed me about the recent Buffalo News Home Finder cover story. Belmont Shelter is offering the fully restored Hamilton Ward House for  $875/month.
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click image to enlarge
While residents and the 'friends of Coe Place' are thrilled with the development and progress here on the street, we should also remember that the house, next door to Belmont's parking lot, might have been lost. Congratulations to Belmont Shelter on a job well done!
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photo courtesy of Belmont Shelter
The spot-light here - Shining the Light June 2006 - was a first step and reminds us that saving a building or house here in the country's second poorest city often begins with light - a spot light. The Artvoice cover story from July 2006 is another reminder - here.
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Here's Chris Hawley with Elizabeth Huckabone, President of Belmont Shelter, at last Fall's opening of the Hamiltion Ward House. I've included a number of salient posts about Coe Place and Artspace in my 'buildings & isssues index'.

Consider joining me in the morning for the regularly scheduled Artspace Neighborhood Walk every Saturday at 10am.
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ArtspaceBAVPAWoodlawn Row HousesfixBuffalo flickr
Creative ClassShrinking CitiesSaturdays in the neighborhood

1/15/2009

City Buildings for-sale!

I noticed the 'for sale sign' for the first time the other day here at the corner of Best and Fillmore.
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The City of Buffalo is selling this amazing building that was most recently the annex for the Highgate Heights school. According to the City's Division of Real Estate it'll go for $150K. Follow this link - Real Estate City of Buffalo - and then click 'public buildings for sale' which takes you to a .pdf document describing a number of offerings.
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click image to enlarge
The building's exterior appears to be very well maintained. Imagine the possibilities! Properly sub-divided this spot would make for some crazy loft spaces that would be adjacent to two of Buffalo's finest treasures - the Science Museum and an Olmsted Park. I spoke with Jay McCarthey in the Real Estate Division the other day and he informed me that City of Buffalo buildings that are available for sale will now have a for-sale sign.
Marketing starts somewhere. This is a good sign!
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ArtspaceBAVPAWoodlawn Row HousesfixBuffalo flickr
Creative ClassShrinking CitiesSaturdays in the neighborhood

Smart City this Weekend

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Smart City is a weekly, hour-long public radio talk show that takes an in-depth look at urban life, the people, places, Create Document ideas and trends shaping cities. Host Carol Coletta talks with national and international public policy experts, elected officials, economists, business leaders, artists, developers, planners and others for a penetrating discussion of urban issues.

This weekend...
  • Does America have a transportation strategy? We'll speak with David Goldberg of the group Transportation for America to find out what realtors, civic leaders, urban planners and non-profit organizations are doing to tackle the problem of how we get around.

  • And we'll speak with John Campbell about one of the most exciting revitalization projects happening in North America, the Toronto Waterfront. The Waterfront works across a broad sector of public and private organizations to create parks, public spaces and cultural institutions along Toronto's shore aimed at reducing sprawl and developing sustainable communities.

Listen to host Carol Colletta - list of additional stations/times - 7pm Sunday on WNED - 970 in Buffalo, NY. Past Shows are archived and the newsletter is published regularly.
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ArtspaceBAVPAWoodlawn Row HousesfixBuffalo flickr
Creative ClassShrinking CitiesSaturdays in the neighborhood

Saturday in the Neigbhorhood

Saturday's Artspace neighborhood walk begins at 10am and lasts about an hour. Remember to bring your camera along, there's so much to see even in the bone chilling cold.
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Details and map.
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ArtspaceBAVPAWoodlawn Row HousesfixBuffalo flickr
Creative ClassShrinking CitiesSaturdays in the neighborhood

1/13/2009

Wither Suburbia?

I received this New York Times piece from an avid fixBuffalo reader yesterday - What Will Save the Suburbs? by Allison Arieff.
Aerial 65
Aerial 65 - Sarah McKenzie
Buffalo ReUse gets a shout-out in Arieff's musings about suburbia.
There has been a nationwide shift toward de-construction (led by companies like Planet Reuse and Buffalo Reuse, the surgical taking-apart of homes to salvage the building materials for reuse, but often the building materials used in these developments aren’t of good enough quality to warrant salvaging.
An amazing comment stream after Arieff's post shouldn't be missed.
I also received this via Planetizen - One Woman's Confession "I Hate Suburbia" a look back to a moment that first appeared in a 1965 issue of Lady's Circle. While catching up with email and posting this evening I've been listening to The Long Emergency, an hour long interview with James Howard Kunstler on google video that I also received in an email yesterday.

Suburbs must have been in the air yesterday as I spent about half an hour driving around some of Clarence NY's toniest McMansions, Spaulding Lake. The loop was unexpected. Next time I'll bring a camera. Really wild. Any suburban bloggers nearby?
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ArtspaceBAVPAWoodlawn Row HousesfixBuffalo flickr
Creative ClassShrinking CitiesSaturdays in the neighborhood

Death at 830 Fillmore

While driving down Fillmore Avenue last weekend a friend and I noticed the boarded and crumbling facades of so many houses and buildings. We never noticed 830 Fillmore, yet a few days later 830 Fillmore made the news. We'd driven down Fillmore dozens of times over the past year and for the first time really took note of how it's been sliding from bad to something beyond our imagination.
830 Fillmore Avenue - Buffalo, NY
830 Fillmore Avenue
It's hard not to become numb to the whole experience of driving or walking by boarded-up or fire ravished and abandonded houses here on the City's east side. There are simply so many. It's hard to keep track as every week a few more houses are added to the list. Buildings crumble, houses are demolished and once thriving businesses and entire industries are literally cut up for scrap and shipped off on the slow boat to China or to a landfill in Ohio. Yet it's hard not to imagine that every house still standing tells a story - about the people who lived in the neighborhood, built and took care of the house and in so many cases just left. I've met dozens of people - mostlly through blogging and walking the neighborhoods - that tell a similar story, they couldn't take the daily threats and level of crime and in most cases simply left. Long wrenching stories about leaving and loss. I mean where in the trajectory of the 'American dream' did we ever imagine or learn how to leave behind the family home? Now, in the country's second poorest city this is becoming part of our narrative. It's a script that is running constantly and one that is increasingly mediated by the foreclosure crisis.

On Wednesday morning last week I received an email from Dick Kern, the patron saint of so many housing activists here in Buffalo, about the recent news - another woman's body had been found in an abandoned house. Just a few days after driving by 830 Fillmore, presumably the woman's body may have already been there, the news arrives.
The body of a woman was found inside an abandoned house at 830 Fillmore Ave. this morning, authorities said. A Rural Metro Ambulance crew arrived at the structure at about 9:30 am after a call was placed from a pay phone at 880 Fillmore alerting officials of the situation. Police were summoned by Rural Metro after the body was found at the house. Officers are investigating the circumstances of the death.

Yes, the house made the news. A scan of Lexis/Nexis this evening, a full week after the woman's body was found, nothing more - absent is the woman's name and the cause of death. This block of Fillmore Avenue, between Sycamore and Broadway, is by any available metric - which isn't saying much - the avenue's most stable block. On Wednesday afternoon when another friend accompanied me to the scene we noticed that the sidewalks and steps at 830 Fillmore had just been shoveled and black plastic trash bag curtains had been hung in the living room windows. There was no crime tape, just a sun faded building permit tacked to the inside window frame was all we could see. After snapping the pic, we quickly left.

Common Council President/Fillmore District Councilman David Franzcyk lives a few doors away at 858 Fillmore. There remains no solace for the surviving family of the woman who's body was found next door or any news about how she died.

This isn't the first time that a woman's body was found in an abandoned house in the immediate neighborhood. Back in July 2006 the body of Yvonne Peterson was found just around the corner at 830 Sycamore Street - see: Buffalo's Death Row. Earlier that summer the partially decomposed body of Shawn Luchey was found two blocks from Artspace - here - in another abandoned house.

While walking my Cold Springs neighborhood on a snowy night I now pass a successful rehab on Glenwood Avenue where new residents have installed a wood burning stove (and another soon to follow on East Utica, story in the works). The sweet and pungent smell of burning hardwood on a cold snowy night always triggers a Vermont moment for me and takes me to a place - as certain smells always do - where I always thought everything was going to be ok and that things in the end would always work out. Yet, factor in a couple dozen abandonded and boarded up houses in the neighborhood, we - those of us who stayed or have decided to reclaim an abandoned house in the neighborhood - know differently. How many crimes linger behind the boards? Literally, how many bodies?

While City Hall pretends to have a plan - There is No Plan - neighborhood residents know better.
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ArtspaceBAVPAWoodlawn Row HousesfixBuffalo flickr
Creative ClassShrinking CitiesSaturdays in the neighborhood

Progress at City Honors


On Saturday I walked around the construction site at City Honors and peeked into what's going to be the new all-high natatorium.
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I still haven't heard about a time-table for the demolition plans of Woodson Gardens, the BMHA housing project adjacent to the site.
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click image to enlarge
Check out the City Honors archive for additional information. I've added a few additional pics to the growing City Honors flickr series.
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ArtspaceBAVPAWoodlawn Row HousesfixBuffalo flickr
Creative ClassShrinking CitiesSaturdays in the neighborhood

1/12/2009

Where do Blogs go?

Remember Inviting Buffalo? The blog debuted last Fall and promised to be a conduit between the City's Department of Strategic Planning and residents interested in innovative neighborhood projects. Inviting Buffalo was last updated 10 weeks ago. The flickr picture stream in the blog's sidebar has some very recent pics from a conference in Italy.

Seems like Inviting Buffalo ran out of gas. Anyone know?
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ArtspaceBAVPAWoodlawn Row HousesfixBuffalo flickr
Creative ClassShrinking CitiesSaturdays in the neighborhood

Is Vinyl Final?

While cruising the Hydraulics over the weekend we spotted these two 'vinyl victorians' on North Division, near Grosvenor Street (live map).
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Chris Hawley has a few words to say about the intersection of various cultural influences, these houses and Buffalo's place in time in this recent post - Urban Scene of the Week.
The suburban lifestyle is losing popularity, and in-town living is in vogue like never before... but as older building stock continues to be demolished and replaced with "vinyl victorians" in down-on-their-luck neighborhoods all over the city, one wonders when it will finally be okay for Buffalo to be itself again.
I'll be adding additional places to my vinyl collection this year. Seems like they keeping popping each time we demolish places that can't be replaced.
Mr. McGuire: I want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Benjamin: Yes, sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, I am.
Mr. McGuire: Plastics.
See My Vinyl Collection for additional inspiration.
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ArtspaceBAVPAWoodlawn Row HousesfixBuffalo flickr
Creative ClassShrinking CitiesSaturdays in the neighborhood

1/10/2009

Deadline Extended...

City Hall has extended the deadline. City property owners have untill January 21st to file a challenge to their new property tax assesment. Friday's Buffalo News reported:
The key is preparation, city officials said. Compiling a list of recent sales of comparable properties can be helpful in the challenge process. Many homeowners who previously succeeded in winning reductions also supplied photographs of properties to document certain interior or exterior conditions. read the rest
The forms needed to do so are available here - Challenging the City.
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ArtspaceBAVPAWoodlawn Row HousesfixBuffalo flickr
Creative ClassShrinking CitiesSaturdays in the neighborhood

1/08/2009

There is No Plan

On Saturday afternoon I drove right by and didn't notice - 2 Girard is gone. Today I went back for pics. I last mentioned this amazing Queen Anne single family home in September 2007 - here - when I learned that a neighborhood organization was going to purchase and renovate it.
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2 Girard - May 2007
Last July, as the Mayor's bulldozers were ramping up for his '5x5' demolition plan, the Mayor was quoted in a Buffalo News article - here:
We’re targeting the worst. We’re convinced those structures must go. There’s really no choice. - Mayor Byron Brown
2 Girard - Buffalo, NY
2 Girard - January 2009
No choice? 2 Girard was a viable structure - a rehab opportunity in waiting.

I remember commenting to my friend as we entered the '33' at Best Street on Saturday afternoon - 'every time i drive along this stretch i feel as though i add insult to injury' - and am rather embarrassed now not to have noticed that 2 Girard was already gone. It was demolished the day after Christmas.
2 Girard - Buffalo, NY
2 Girard - March 2005
The Mayor reportedly was considering a press event at 2 Girard prior to the demolition and was advised not to. He moved to a burn out on Jefferson Avenue at the last minute.

To see the full impact of what we have lost, visit Historic Aerials - here, for a look at what the neighborhood was like in 1958. Take a moment to compare the 1958 map with the 2006 image, using the convenient slider tool. Staggering.
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2 Girard - Today
Here's the link to eleven 2 Girard posts - going back to March 2005 - including some interior pics.
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ArtspaceBAVPAWoodlawn Row HousesfixBuffalo flickr
Creative ClassShrinking CitiesSaturdays in the neighborhood

Neighborhood Walks - 2009 Schedule

Saturday morning Artspace Neighborhood walks will begin at 10am this year. Meet-up is across the street at the Sonic Cafe - here's the map - every Saturday.

There are a number of very exciting renovations and new developments happening in the neighborhood and periodically we'll be joined by a growing number of people who are moving into the neighborhood and making places - that would have been demolished and trucked off to a landfill - their home.
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Here's the link to recent Saturdays around the neighborhood and flickr series of this past Fall's neighborhood walks. Consider joining me on Saturday mornings at 10am and learn more about this emerging neighborhood. The walk lasts about an hour - rain, snow or shine!

If you're interested in additional information check out two sections of my 'building & issues Index' - Coe Place and Artspace. A cultural assets map may help further orient you to the neighborhood.

See you on Saturday!
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ArtspaceBAVPA Woodlawn Row HousesfixBuffalo flickr
Creative ClassShrinking CitiesSaturdays in the neighborhood

Broken Heart.

As seen on Fillmore Avenue this afternoon.
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ArtspaceBAVPAWoodlawn Row HousesfixBuffalo flickr
Creative ClassShrinking CitiesSaturdays in the neighborhood