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Council to vote on Trico landmark status

The question of whether a former windshield wiper factory deserves landmark status has been hanging over the Common Council’s head for a year, and the day of reckoning has arrived.

The Council is set to vote today on whether to designate the Trico complex at Washington and Goodell streets a local landmark.

The local preservation community and City Hall’s Preservation Board are strongly in favor of the designation, which would require public hearings and greater oversight in any reuse or demolition plan.

Principals with the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus are against landmark designation. Such a move would “put the control in the hands of people who will only look at it from a preservation perspective,” said campus President and CEO Matthew K. Enstice.

At one point, Medical Campus leaders had said they were willing to preserve part of the complex – the trademark portion of the building that bends around Washington Street onto Goodell Street.

But after speaking with local and national developers, and spending $500,000 in the process, they now say they don’t believe the complex can be reused.

Medical Campus Chairman William L. Joyce said last week before the Legislation Committee: “I think it’s safe to say we feel at this point in time, we can’t do it. We can’t save the entire building, We don’t believe that anybody has presented a plan or has expressed interest of a credible nature that we would save even one-half of that facility.”

However, Joyce said they would work with the preservation community over the next six months to come up with a feasible reuse plan. If nothing comes of that, then the campus would pursue demolition, he said.

Ellicott Council Member Darius G. Pridgen, whose district includes the complex, refused to say Monday how he will vote when the Council meets at 2 p.m. today. Council members typically defer to the district lawmaker in voting on controversial items.

The disagreement over the designation centers on what factors should be considered when planning the building’s future.

Preservationists said the city’s law should be followed and that factors such as a feasible re-use or market conditions should not be considered in granting landmark status.

“It’s up to the Common Council to really know the law and know what is relevant in a conversation, and what isn’t relevant,” said Jason Wilson, director of operations at Preservation Buffalo Niagara.

Preservationists gathered Monday on the steps of City Hall to say the city’s law provides for local landmark status for buildings that meet just one out of nine criteria and that the complex meets seven.

The 591,591-square-foot factory, built in phases from 1890 to 1950, is already designated a landmark on the National Register.