Mayor Anthony M. Masiello's latest act to frustrate downtown development is his worst, and the most illogical. Successful restoration of the former AM&A's building required a plan, but the mayor offered none, then delayed when one was promised.
In a six-month project examining downtown restoration of comparable cities, the Kansas City Star rated Buffalo's last of 18. No surprise. Other mayors held summits with private and public developers to design plans and fire up action.
As downtown deteriorated over the years, the big question in Buffalo was what to do with unsafe eyesores blocking progress. The best way found to deal with that situation nationally is to force owners to bring their buildings up to code or turn the property over to someone who will. If the mayor had chosen any of these approaches years ago, downtown roadblocks could have worked their way through sale or court and now be available for development.
Now Masiello has taken the oddest approach yet, blocking his own building inspectors from going to court to force the AM&A's building owner to fix it. The mayor pulled from court more than 100 complaints filed by the inspectors. The mayor argues he needs time to work a deal. What would move a deal along faster than a pending court case, one that could be rescinded if an agreement were reached?
Richard Taylor, who received $425,000 to take the building and open an upscale clothing store that failed, wants to make the most money from the property. But inspectors say he's let the building deteriorate in the meantime. Masiello's latest folly is to think that after all these years, and with him headed out the door Dec. 31, Taylor will suddenly end the waiting game he's winning and make things right.
The path to success in building critical mass in a downtown core is with proper placement of projects to maximize growth. The city let developers build where they pleased, before coming up with an award-winning master plan, though late in the game. This mayor loves to show off new development he had little to do with. We'd like to see him, in the waning days of his administration, show off a real deal on AM&A's, or let the city enforce the law and protect the people.
The mayor promises to bring strong action against Taylor if he doesn't act. But he hasn't acted in eight years of ownership. Why would the taxpayer expect Taylor to behave better now? Why not let the courts do their job? If a viable deal arrives, the complaints can be resolved. If not, let's get on with necessary steps to return the property to a useful life.