I read with great interest the News article concerning the preservation of Buffalo's architectural heritage. There are two areas that need to be expanded on: government and private efforts. In my role as secretary and general counsel to the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency, I see daily the efforts of the Masiello administration and the staff of Community Development. The mayor has pledged to do all he can to preserve and restore our architectural past.
The agency has been a key player in the Michigan Avenue Preservation Corp.'s efforts to protect and preserve Michigan Avenue Baptist Church and other significant structures in that area.
We are developing plans for the preservation of the facades of the Schmidt and Vernor buildings. We are attempting to work with the owner of the Webb Building to find an economically feasible plan for its reuse. We have encouraged the owners of the Greystone Hotel to mothball and protect that building pending the development of a reuse plan. We are working with members of the Common Council to acquire and stabilize Delaware-Asbury Methodist Church.
The agency recently awarded a $76,000 grant to Heart of the City, a new downtown housing spin-off of Buffalo Place, to help refurbish the Watkins Building, a 1901 Pan-American hotel on West Chippewa. Our efforts on behalf of the Cobblestone District are well-documented. We are also exploring reuses of the Berger Building, which should preserve its appearance.
We have retained a consultant to explore the possibility of residential/commercial development in the area of Genesee and Ellicott streets to preserve and rehabilitate these wonderful buildings.
Nearby, the Buffalo Economic Renaissance Corp. is working with the owners of the Buffalo Wholesale properties on Oak Street to develop a reuse plan that will preserve that important urban fabric. We are currently reroofing and boarding up the buildings north of the corner of Virginia and Main streets. In the spring, we will demolish old garages behind these 1880s buildings and seek a developer to bring back the first-floor retail and upper-floor residences.
In my private role as president of the Lower Lakes Marine Historical Society, I am leading the restoration of the former Howard H. Baker marine supply building at 66 Erie St. This 1896, four-story building has been cleaned, painted and preserved in order to become the home of a maritime museum in the next few months.
Most of this work has been accomplished through the voluntary efforts of our membership. We have also had substantial assistance from businesses and private foundations. The mayor was one of the first to offer help, with a $25,000 BURA grant and a $5,000 Mayor's Neighborhood Matching Fund grant.
I'm sure there are many other groups doing their part to help preserve and restore our heritage. I applaud The News for reminding us of the importance of our past.
Michael L. McCarthy