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Buffalo Common Council panel, amid preservation debate, hears opposition to demolishing Bachelor Apartments

The Bachelor Apartments have unassumingly anchored the corner of 331 Franklin St. for years.

That changed last year when Ellicott Development proposed tearing down the four-story building in downtown Buffalo to make way for a $70 million plan – including a hotel, apartments, retail and a parking ramp – in a 12-story project.

On Thursday, about half of the 50 people attending a Common Council Legislative Committee hearing said that would be a mistake, and urged that the building, built in 1886, be locally landmarked. Many in attendance also expressed support for the project, and urged the developer to find a way for the project to coexist with the Bachelor.

“It is an extremely important building, and this was the research a lot of people didn’t realize,” said Paul McDonnell, chairman of the Buffalo Preservation Board. “It’s a building that was hiding in plain sight.”

“We’re talking about my home here,” said Tim Goehrig, who has lived at the Bachelor since 2014.

“There is some value to this apartment building, and you have tenants who love and take care of it. Please consider the human beings who live there, as well.”

The Bachelor wasn’t the only historic property with advocates. Similar support also was voiced for the former North Park Library in North Buffalo, which the city has discussed selling to Benderson Development for a retail project.

Several also spoke in favor of landmarking the Crosby Co. complex on Pratt Street on the East Side.

All three properties have been recommended for local landmark status by the Preservation Board. Only one person who wasn’t a developer or owner spoke against preserving the properties.

The final decision rests with the Council, which tabled the issues until a future time.

Referring to the former branch library, Frank Giacobbe, president of the Italian Cultural Center, said, “This building is a solid structure, and it is charming. It is a gem, and we in the North Buffalo area are passionate about it.”

Giacobbe finished by asking rhetorically, “If you were in Rome, would you tear down the Colosseum to make another McDonald’s?”

North Buffalo resident Paul Kay talked about the importance of place and how the library site would connect his children to the next generation. Architect Anthony O. James said the mature trees and greenery were like a “mini-arboretum” in an otherwise concrete landscape.

Another speaker described how the shady spot, with benches, afforded respite for bus riders in an otherwise unattractive intersection.

The Crosby complex’s importance to the city’s industrial heritage was underscored by Timothy A. Tielman, executive director of Campaign for Greater Buffalo, the preservation group responsible for mobilizing many of those who turned out.

Thomas M. Fox, Ellicott Development’s director of development, said alternatives that would allow the project to move forward and leave the Bachelor Apartments standing were not financially feasible.

The project needs the space for parking, Fox said. “Without demolition, we would not be able to complete the project,” he said.

Fox said that while the Bachelor would have to be demolished, the project would give new life to the former Buffalo Christian Center, provide a permanent home to Road Less Traveled Productions in the former Forbes Theatre and spur development nearby.

Crosby Co. co-owner Jason Crosby said he was opposed to landmarking the 13-building Pratt Street site, suggesting that it was an unnecessary step when he had been acting in good faith.

Crosby said he has been working with architects on the possibility of stabilizing and mothballing Building 2, the largest one planned for demolition, and was considering repairing smaller, deteriorating buildings that had also been slated to come down.

email: msommer@buffnews.com