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Swan Street parking ramp targeted for demolition

It may be curtains for one of Buffalo's oldest commercial parking ramps in the heart of downtown.

Ellicott Development Co. wants to demolish the three-story Swan Ramp, across from Sahlen Field and sandwiched between Erie Community College's downtown campus and the Ellicott Square Building.

The developer is seeking permission from the Buffalo Preservation Board, citing an engineering firm's report that recommended "immediate action be taken to demolish the structure in lieu of trying to reinforce and stabilize it."

Siracuse Engineers PC, at Ellicott's request, walked through the ramp "to observe and assess the condition" of the structure, and found "serious structural deficiencies." Those included:

• Spalling or flaking concrete from the underside of the existing floor slabs, caused by "extreme rusting" and fracturing of the slab's reinforcing, which threatens the structural capacity of the slabs

• Severe rusting and fracturing of 80% to 90% of the beams on each floor

• Severe rusting and fracturing on several columns, two of which have already failed on the third floor

• Major vertical cracking in the eastern exterior load-bearing wall.

"The extreme deteriorating and compromised strength of the structural framing is a dangerous condition to any occupants, construction workers and the surrounding public," Siracuse Vice President Darren Geibel wrote to Ellicott on Oct. 18.

The Preservation Board will consider the request on Nov. 21. If approved, the demolition would cost about $60,000, according to documents submitted to the city.

Demolition of the steel-frame garage would eliminate one of the "earlier parking ramps that were built downtown," according to a 1979 "building structure inventory form" for the state Historic Preservation Office, which noted that 19th-century commercial buildings "have been torn down through urban renewal."

Located at 40-48 Swan St., the brick facility opened in 1923 as the Mobil Swan Garage, with 350 parking spaces. It was constructed at a cost of $250,000, which is now $3.76 million. And it includes a flat roof, a parapet, piers decorated with stone medallions, and center and end bays on the upper floors with round-arch two-story panel windows on the ends, although much of those features are now covered with modern sheet metal.

The ramp opened with fanfare as "the most modern garage ever built," according to the Buffalo Commercial Advertiser, and was based on new designs from New York City at the time. It also included a Mobil gas and service station on the first floor for washing, repairing and cleaning cars, as well as selling Dunlop tires.

Also on Thursday's agenda at the Preservation Board, Carolyn Graser is asking approval to demolish the 119-year-old brick flower shop building at 399 Amherst St., home of Graser's Florist. According to the application by Hannah Demolition on her behalf, the building is "leaning to the right, while the "foundation is really bad."

Located on the south side of Amherst between Grant and Germain streets, the 2.5-story Queen Anne-style building with a mansard roof was designed and built by W.H. Zawadzki for the original owner, Rozalia Kaczmarek, according to a six-year-old application for landmark status.

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