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Editorial: Architecture center will be a reminder of Buffalo’s past and Lipsey’s generosity

Stanford Lipsey loved architecture. And he especially loved Buffalo’s treasure trove of architecture, understanding that it was his adopted city’s latent, long-term wealth.

Just before he died on Nov. 1, the former publisher of The Buffalo News ensured that the city’s legacy – and his – would be intertwined for generations to come. Lipsey and his wife, Judith, had arranged to make a $5 million donation to the architecture center that will help to anchor the Richardson Olmsted Complex, the historic structure whose rescue he engineered.

It is, we confess, a matter in which we at The News cannot help but take a measure of pride. Lipsey was fierce when it came to promoting and improving this city, even in its darkest days. And it wasn’t just talk; he put not only his money but his energy into the work of reclaiming Buffalo.

In particular, he was responsible for wresting $76 million from the State Legislature and the administration of then-Gov. George E. Pataki to rescue the historic Richardson Towers from the state’s neglect. If that wasn’t enough, he then headed the board whose mission it was to restore and reuse the imposing 146-year-old structure, designed by famed architect H.H. Richardson.

That was in 2006. Now, a decade later, the project is nearing a milestone. That is due in no small part to Lipsey’s hard work. Next year, the Hotel Henry is scheduled to open, providing a unique experience to guests with an interest in heritage tourism or a connection to the nearby SUNY Buffalo State. Later in the year, the architecture center – to be named in honor of the Lipseys – is expected to open.

The center is being developed in phases, with its permanent exhibit on Buffalo’s architecture opening on the lower level at the building’s new north entrance. A rotating gallery will be on the first floor, and a suite of two rooms within one of the patient ward buildings will show what the original hospital rooms were like.

There will also be displays that tell the story of the Richardson Olmsted Complex and of the mental health care provided there. In all, the center will have about 3,000 square feet of exhibition space.

Over the longer term, the goal is to create a 10,000-square-foot architecture center consolidated into one of the buildings developed in the second phase.

The Lipseys’ gift is designed, in part, as a challenge grant. An initial $2.5 million gift comes without conditions, but the other half requires the Richardson Center Corp. to raise another $5 million, to produce a total of $10 million. Already, $2 million has been separately raised, with gifts from M&T Bank and Howard and Leslie Zemsky. Before taking over as head of Empire State Development Corp., Howard Zemsky was president of the Richardson Center Corp.

This is harmony in action. Lipsey, one of Buffalo’s most passionate supporters of its architecture – both historic and envisioned – has given generously to ensure that architecture’s role in the city is celebrated and, through the celebration, preserved.

The Richardson project was only one of Lipsey’s efforts on behalf of Buffalo’s architecture. He was also deeply involved in the restoration of the Darwin Martin House in the city’s Parkside neighborhood.

Buffalo, Lipsey always believed, had greatness within. In a final gift to the city he loved from the day he arrived more than 30 years ago, he has added to its quotient of greatness.

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