Dearborn Street has traditionally been one of the nicer streets in Black Rock, part of what’s considered a historically significant neighborhood founded by German immigrants in the 1830s and 1840s. But the house at 245 Dearborn was an eyesore for years – more like decades, says North District Councilman Joseph Golombek Jr.
Sometime in the 1990s, Golombek said, when the Dearborn house was sold, the new owner converted what had been a two-family home into four rental units.
Cops were being called to deal with excessive noise and complaints of possible drug sales at the house, Golombek said. When he was campaigning door to door in 1999, neighbors told him they wanted the house torn down, he said.
The city attempted to crack down on the landlord, but the property owner was nowhere to be found, according to Golombek. “The landlord absconded. I think there were people living there, but not paying rent. Squatters.”
In 2013, the 103-year-old house ended up with Wells Fargo Bank, which proposed demolishing the home. Preservationists objected. The Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency, a city hall office, stepped in, working with the Black Rock Riverside Neighborhood Housing Services to see if the house could be saved, officials said.
It was decided it would be better for the neighborhood to have a two-unit, owner-occupied home, rather than four rental-units, Golombek said.
“I did not want the four units put back,” Golombek said.” There would be the parking problems, and the apartments would be too small. I wanted an owner occupant.”
The interior of the house was gutted. It was so filled with lead it cost almost $63,000 to deconstruct the house and remove the tainted materials, records show.
New plumbing was installed. New electrical. New framing. New dry wall. When completed, what had been four small apartments became two units. The main apartment includes a living room and kitchen downstairs, and four bedrooms upstairs. A second, smaller, 600-square-foot, one-bedroom rental apartment is on the first floor.
“It was a monster of a job,” said William J. Buzak, construction services manager with BlackRock-Riverside Neighborhood Housing Services. “The roof alone was $25,000.”
Since the house is in a federally designated historic district, extra money was spent on items recommended by the state Preservation office.
Almost $65,000 was spent on siding, windows and exterior doors, trim and columns to meet historic preservation guidelines, records show. The house has eight wood columns that cost $500 each, according to city officials.
There’s nothing particularly fancy inside. Vinyl tile floors. Laminate counter tops. An acrylic tub surround in the bathroom.
But the city spent $523,600 in federal Housing and Urban Development funds rehabbing the house – on a street where the highest amount any other house sold for over the past year was $75,000 according to New York State sales data.
Now it's trying to sell the property for $137,750 to a first-time home buyer.