An archaeological investigation found nothing that would prevent the city from proceeding with the federally funded Richmond Avenue revitalization project, it was revealed Thursday.
Warren Barbour, president and principal investigator for the Buffalo firm of Dean & Barbour Associates, said that digging -- through old files and in the ground at the site beside the Erie Canal -- found nothing of historic preservation interest.
If the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation concurs after reading the report, the city would be allowed to proceed with the acquisition and demolition of most of the Richmond Avenue block, which would then be handed over to a private developer.
Swan said, "They've seen nothing that's flashing red signs."
Developers want to build something that might fit in with a canal tourism theme. The city has a $1 million grant in hand from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Canal Corridor Initiative.
Swan said it might take 45 days to get a response from Albany.
Swan and Barbour said a public meeting would be held Sept. 29 in City Hall to show slides and discuss the report's findings.
The investigation, which cost the city about $15,000, was ordered after the state blew the whistle on the city's plans to acquire and demolish almost the entire block bounded by Richmond, Church, Gooding and Ontario streets.
The state issued a report last summer that said the block could be eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. The report pointed to the buildings' proximity to the canal and their construction.
The report called the buildings, erected between 1875 and 1896, "rare surviving examples of buildings constructed with the escarpment limestone."
But Barbour, an associate professor of anthropology and archaeology at the University at Buffalo, said the buildings have been so altered that, in his opinion, "They're very unlikely to be eligible (for the National Register)."
Barbour said much of the canal stone has been removed or covered with bricks. The sides of some of the buildings still exhibit the original stone, though.
"What would be required would be extensive photo documentation of those sides," Barbour said.
Last fall, the city floated the idea of saving the canal stone after the existing buildings are demolished for use in new facades. Barbour said there's a chance the state may allow that.
Barbour said research at the Niagara County Historical Society showed that the buildings on the street in 1851 were all gone by 1875, possibly because of a fire. Between 1875 and 1908, the block was rebuilt, and alterations continued to be made through the decades.
The firm also dug three pits, each up to 8 feet deep, looking for artifacts. They found very little, Barbour said.
The buildings the city wants to demolish include Zimmie's Tire, Licata Vending Co., the former Walter W. Kohl motorcycle shop, the Model T Bar and two vacant buildings.
The Hamilton House, at Church and Ontario streets, owned by First Presbyterian Church, would not be taken, according to city Community Development Director William J. Evert.
Dean & Barbour also is working on archaeological investigation at the Inner Harbor project in Buffalo.