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Safety measure taken at old AM&A's Protective scaffold runs on Washington St. side

A protective scaffold has been installed at the rear of the former Adam, Meldrum and Anderson Co. department store in downtown Buffalo to block any debris falling from the building.

New Horizons Acquisitions, the Long Island-based investment group that bought the idle department store and adjacent warehouse in mid-2006, has erected the scaffold along the entire Washington Street side of the retail complex.

Richard M. Tobe, Buffalo's economic development, permits and inspections chief, confirmed the owner obtained a permit for the protective structure.

"It was voluntary. We didn't tell them it was necessary," Tobe said.

In late June, falling debris from the rear wall of the vacant, 10-story building tumbled onto the sidewalk, forcing an emergency closure of the walkway until repairs were made. A month earlier, sidewalks surrounding the store's warehouse, located directly across Washington Street, were cordoned off after chucks of terra cotta fell off the building.

The facade problems resulted in the sidewalks on both sides of the street -- a section of Washington Street which sees substantial foot traffic -- being closed to pedestrians until repairs were completed.

New Horizons purchased the troubled downtown landmark in August 2006 for $2.05 million and subsequently announced a $60 million plan to covert it to 180 "reasonably priced" apartments with retail space on the ground floor. The warehouse was also slated to become residences.

Last spring, questions about New Horizons commitment to the high-profile project were raised when the properties were marketed for sale by a Manhattan real estate firm with an asking price of $3.9 million. George Fakiris, a New Horizons principal, later said he had no intention of selling the Buffalo buildings, and reiterated his renovation intentions.

The nearly 300,000-square-foot former flagship department store and its adjacent warehouse have sat idle since 1999, when former owner Richard Taylor shuttered his short-lived retail venture on the store's first floor. Taylor was cited for numerous building and fire code violations, the bulk of which have been corrected by New Horizons.

e-mail: slinstedt@buffnews.com

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