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Martin House restorers ask city for $1 million

With the finish line drawing near, supporters of the Darwin D. Martin House restoration are making one last push for funding.

Tuesday, they asked City Hall for $1 million.

"We need the city's support both politically and financially," said John N. Walsh III, president of Martin House Restoration Corp.

The project is entering the fifth and final phase, Walsh said, but supporters are still about $6 million short of what they need to complete the $51 million restoration of the Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece on Jewett Parkway.

The pitch to Common Council members was greeted warmly, although lawmakers wondered aloud where the money would come from.

"This is something that merits our support; no question about it," said Council President David A. Franczyk.

Franczyk and Delaware Council Member Michael J. LoCurto, who represents the Parkside neighborhood that the Martin House calls home, said they would sponsor a measure supporting the allocation of $1 million in city funds.

Council members also encouraged Walsh to lobby Mayor Byron W. Brown so funding can be included in the 2010 city budget.

"We'll continue to try and find ways to help," said Brown spokesman Peter K. Cutler. "As always, its comes down to available funds."

If the city does set aside money, that would leave the project about $5 million short of what it needs. That money could come from the state or federal government, or other sources, supporters said.

Mary F. Roberts, executive director of the restoration agency, said the city's help is crucial to meeting the 2011 deadline for completion.

Supporters want the Martin House ready for the 2,000 preservation and architecture experts who will travel to Buffalo from around the world as part of the 2011 conference of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The $6 million in new funding would finance the interior restoration of the Martin House, including asbestos removal and an upgrade of all mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems.

The project's budget has increased by tens of millions since restoration began in the 1990s.

e-mail: pfairbanks@buffnews.com

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