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A state judge Tuesday directed the Buffalo Preservation Board to consider the economic feasibility of rehabilitating a fire-damaged 19th century Allentown building owned by a city agency.

After two structural engineers agreed that the three-story building at Main and Virginia streets could be renovated, State Supreme Court Justice Eugene M. Fahey granted the review sought by the Allentown Association and the Campaign for Buffalo.

Fahey also kept in effect, until at least July 8, the temporary stay he issued April 8 at the request of the organizations.

Two days earlier, a fire blamed on arson collapsed the roof of the building, prompting the Fire Department to recommend emergency demolition.

Timothy Tielman, executive director of the nonprofit Campaign for Buffalo History, Architecture and Culture, said no financial assessment of preserving the historic structure had been made. But John Jablonski, an attorney who lives on North Pearl Street, behind the damaged building, questioned its worth.

Jablonski, allowed by the judge to intervene in the case, said he plans to address the city Preservation Board on the lack of any viable economic approaches for rehabilitating the building, designed by George Metzger, a Buffalo architect at the end of the 19th century.

The building is one of seven structures in the 800 block of Main acquired last year by the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency. Privately held First Amherst Development has been designated to redevelop them.

David J. State, senior deputy corporation counsel, and Richard E. Stanton, the renewal agency's general counsel, said they plan to address the Preservation Board within the next two weeks on why public safety concerns require demolition.

Edward Craver, a Fire Department division chief, testified Monday that fire crews had to fight the fire "from the outside" because of fears the structure would collapse.

The city Preservation Board is scheduled to consider the future of the building when it meets at 3 p.m. Thursday in Room 901 in City Hall.

Structural engineers Thomas Kiener, called by the city, and Kevin Connor, called by the preservationists, agreed the building is a hazard but disagreed on the economic feasibility of rehabilitation.

Kiener, president of Jansen-Kiener Consulting Engineers, hired by the city to assess the building's stability, told the judge the building's south and east walls are in danger of collapsing in a high wind. He said that justified the city's closing off public access.

Stephanie Cole, attorney for the Allentown Association and Campaign for Buffalo, reminded Kiener that recent winds of 45 mph had not caused the walls to collapse.

Cole told Fahey the city's emergency demolition plans left the taxpaying public "out of the process," and she noted the law mandates notifying the city Preservation Board of any proposed emergency demolition efforts.

Cole argued that City Hall action on the planned demolition of the building ignored what she called the "certainly reasonable" consideration of its rehabilitation.


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