Elmwood residents who love to eat at Pano's restaurant were almost unanimous Thursday evening in opposing the owner's plans to tear down a building next door for restaurant patio expansion.
About 120 residents attended a hearing of the Buffalo Preservation Board in Common Council chambers.
Restaurant owner Pano Georgiadis also owns the Atwater House, a 2 1/2 -story Queen Anne shingle storefront and dwelling built in 1894 at 1089 Elmwood.
Dennis Galucki, executive director of the Landmark Society of the Niagara Frontier, offered Georgiadis the society's assistance in examining options for the building. He said it is eligible for listing on the state and federal registers of historic places.
"You can't landmark a property without the consent of the owner," responded William H. Gardner, an attorney.
Gardner, who has lived in the neighborhood for 40 years, said he is as concerned about Elmwood as anyone and wants residents to have "empowerment" over its future.
"But maybe the neighbors are ganging up on Pano's and punishing him for the failures of the city," Gardner said. "Maybe the courts will take care of the situation."
Resident Judith Einach disagreed.
"There are people who believe that ownership implies the owner can act on his property in whatever way suits his interest," she said. "They fail to see that our property never completely belongs to us and that our decisions must take more than our immediate interests into account."
A. Scott Field, executive director of the Preservation Coalition, said 3,700 people have added their names to online petitions against the plan.
"We all enjoy eating at Pano's and wish him continuing success," Field said, "but that success should not come at the expense of one of the factors that helps to make the whole neighborhood a success."
Jeffrey Lebsack of the American Planning Association and Peter Murad of the American Institute of Architects also spoke against demolition. So did Tim Tielman, executive director of the Campaign for Greater Buffalo History, Architecture & Culture.
"We hope this will be resolved expeditiously," said Commissioner Raymond K. McGurn of the Department of Permit & Inspection Services, "hopefully in the next couple weeks."
McGurn said more research must be done on the law, adding: "If (the owner) were to abandon his (expansion) project tomorrow, what would preclude him from taking down the building anyway?"
Georgiadis attended the meeting with sons Niko and Alex.
"It's truly a noble favor to try to save something," Georgiadis told city officials and preservationists . "But many years ago, you left the door open, you left a booby trap for something like this to happen. I'm the victim right now.
"The Atwater House is not the victim," he continued. "I spent over $1.5 million on that spot, and I've got loans up to my neck. Because there were no plans. You people jump in after the fact."