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Fate of 19th-century Cobblestone buildings could be decided in Housing Court next month

Fate of 19th-century Cobblestone buildings could be decided in Housing Court next month

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From the outside, the 19th-century brick buildings at the southern end of the Cobblestone District look deteriorated, with buckled and crumbling walls and weakened mortar.

Now city officials will be allowed to take a look from the inside, thanks to an order Friday from Housing Court Judge Patrick M. Carney.

"The judge has granted an interior inspection order that will allow for the city go into the property and could also allow Preservation Buffalo Niagara to go inside as well," said Rashied McDuffie, assistant corporation counsel for the City of Buffalo.

The brick buildings at 110 and 118 South Park Avenue have been in danger of collapsing since their owner, Darryl Carr, was first hauled into Housing Court more than 10 years ago. Carr wants to demolish the buildings to make way for a development plan he calls Unity Tower at Cobblestone Place. It would include condominiums, hotel suites, retail and dining establishments.

The city wants to see if the Canal-era buildings can be salvaged.

A judge Monday ordered the owner of two 19th-century brick buildings in the Cobblestone District to return to Housing Court on April 9 over the conditions of the properties. The city asked Judge Patrick Carney to require Darryl Carr, owner of 110 and 118 South Park Ave., to put $100,000 in escrow and to provide proof he has hired

“Their team wants to knock it down so they can put up whatever they want to put up," McDuffie said. "The preservationists and some of our city teams say, 'No need to do that. This is a preservation district. And you can preserve it.'

“Their team naturally says, 'Nothing to see here.' Our team says, 'There may be something to see here.' This is our opportunity to see if that’s the case. If there’s something to imminently stabilize or address, we want to do that.”

Last year, preservationists called the buildings Exhibit A for city intervention, noting their neglect amid a tiny block of the Cobblestone District that represents the last intact part of the waterfront related to the Erie Canal.

The cluster of old brick buildings and stone streets in the small Cobblestone Historic Preservation District, designated by the Common Council in 1994, are bordered by Perry and South Park avenues and Mississippi and Illinois streets.

Carney set a Dec. 3 date for further proceedings and a demolition hearing for 110 and 118 South Park Ave.

By then, an expert review on the condition of the building should be completed, and Preservation Buffalo Niagara will provide its assessment of the building’s condition and opinion on what needs to be done.

Attorney James Milbrand, who represents Carr, said the buildings are past their useful life. The foundation is not secure.

The buildings have to be rebuilt because their materials are either structurally or environmentally compromised and "you can't reuse the materials," Carr said.

Carr said he has already documented the buildings, "inside and out."

Milbrand said Carr will address next week a wall that is bowed and in danger of "blowing out."

Carr has installed scaffolding around the perimeter of the property to protect pedestrians and cars from any bricks that fall from the roof, Fillmore Common Council Member Mitchell P. Nowakowski said.

Carr said he intends to start the application process for his development project with the Planning Board within a few weeks.

Preserving the buildings doesn't make sense, Carr said. 

"You’re throwing money at something that’s going to come down, from fines, to places I repointed that came down, and paying all the taxes every year on something I can’t use,” he added. “And I work for that money. I’d rather spend it on something else.”

Carr bought the three-story building at 118-120 South Park in 2003. The 1869 building was originally home to the Brown & McCutcheon Buffalo Brass Foundry.

The four-story building at 110 South Park – a series of buildings added on over the years that extend nearly halfway down Illinois Street – was purchased by Carr in 2008. The 1852 building, with cast-iron moldings and sills and a cast-iron storefront, was first home to George Mugridge & Son Steam Bakery. The company made hardtack – a type of biscuit – for the Union Army during the Civil War. 

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