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City seeks proposals for historic Fruit Belt site

Buffalo city officials are seeking proposals to develop a city-owned lot in the Fruit Belt neighborhood that contains a dilapidated masonry house from the Civil War era.

Requests were sent to hundreds of developers last month to build on three lots at 204, 206 and 208 High St. The site includes two vacant lots and a pair of two-story brick homes at the northeast corner of High and Maple streets that date to 1865 and 1871. The site, including the Meidenbauer-Morgan House, is a block away from Michigan Avenue and the Roswell Park Cancer Institute on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

Rev. Michael Chapman’s St. John Fruit Belt Community Development Corp. had previously planned to demolish the 5,400-square-foot structure at High and Maple streets and reuse the site for its planned Sweet Pea fresh-foods market, cafe and pharmacy. It submitted an application to the city in 2011 to buy the property, which the city had seized in 2005 because of nonpayment of taxes.

The $1.7 million project even won approval from the Buffalo Planning Board, but stalled after preservationists sought to designate the property as a historic site. Chapman then found an alternative location one block east.

Now the city wants to encourage a historic renovation of the aging house, instead of knocking it down. It was the home and medical office of Dr. John Meidenbauer, an instructor at the University of Buffalo’s College of Pharmacy. It has been vacant for more than 37 years.

email: jepstein@buffnews.com