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Another Voice: Elmwood Village is facing a threat to its character

By Tom Yots

Buffalo was rich at the right time: at the turn of the 20th century when great American architects like Wright, Sullivan, Burnham and Richardson designed iconic buildings here along with local architects like Green and Wicks and Bley and Lyman.

Then we were poor at the right time in the 1970s and ’80s when other cities were demolishing their early buildings to build the creations of that generation’s masters, resulting in many of our city’s treasures remaining.

Along with these buildings, Buffalo is fortunate to have intact neighborhoods where a variety of architectural styles and building types in human scale create a walkable environment that is treasured by residents.

When 2,500 people came from around the world in 2012 for the National Trust for Historic Preservation Conference, they roamed our city and marveled at the blocks with houses set back from the street and lawns leading to broad porches aligned with one another.

Neighborhoods like Hamlin Park, Allentown and Elmwood Village are regarded as highly desirable places to live because of the historic character and feel of their commercial and residential blocks.

It is incumbent upon us to protect and retain these vital, livable places in our city. Two of the aforementioned neighborhoods, Hamlin Park and Allentown, took steps decades ago to give that protection to their character.

One need only look at the looming presence of the Medical Campus across Main Street from Allentown to understand how that protection has worked for them. Standing on the corner of Main and Allen and looking east and then west, there is no question where the protection lies and where one of the most desirable areas to live in our city exists.

Right now the Elmwood Village is facing threats to the very character that has made it one of the most popular residential and retail neighborhoods in not only our city but in all of Western New York.

Assemblyman Sean Ryan, D-Buffalo, recently proposed a moratorium on demolition to provide the time for the community to gather together and discuss what it is that needs to be protected in the Elmwood Village and the best way to give that protection.

Preservation Buffalo Niagara has stepped forward, offering to help the community explore potential options and is in the process of announcing a community meeting to begin doing that.

To delay this much-needed discussion about our future would be short-sighted. Now is the time to move forward and protect the very character that brought many of us to the Elmwood Village before we lose more of what makes us want to be here.

Tom Yots is a former head of Preservation Buffalo Niagara and former city historian in Niagara Falls.

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