DiCamillo Bakery on Linwood Avenue is within walking distance, just under 1.5 miles from my home in DeVeaux, and I try to patronize the beloved neighborhood bakery once a week. Some days I ride the Niagara Scenic Parkway Trail; other days I walk down Main Street.
I enjoy walking down Main Street and admiring the public art that graces the streetscape. Last week, I walked down Main Street, passing the group of defunct buildings now owned by Niagara Village, LLC, a Blue Cardinal Capital contributor, including the former Hart to Hart Furniture store, whose facade is boarded up with painted signs. by hand in various colors. -painted plywood branded in bold white letters, “IMAGINE THE POSSIBILITIES”.
The structure was built around 1900, but that does not mean that preserving the building for 21st century use is sound economic development policy.
There was a fairly large hole in the roof when Blue Cardinal acquired the Hart Building and other nearby properties on the north Main Street area in 2019. Stabilization efforts were minimal to non-existent from 2020 to present. The reason? The pandemic and the loss of an investor. Penniless. No fix. Now the hole has expanded more than 30% of the roof surface. Perhaps an investor with deep pockets to prop up the building magically appears before demolition becomes a necessity.
Preservation advocates Niagara Village and Blue Cardinal want the city and Code Enforcement to push the idea of demolishing the building. Is The Hart building really that historic or aesthetically significant? That is debatable. One thing is certain; Every day that passes without a stabilization effort compromises the structural integrity of the roof and floor.
Buildings in quasi-historic districts may have aesthetic potential on the outside, but the desire for modern conveniences on the inside is just as important, perhaps more so. Today, the stores are equipped with Wi-Fi, cable, flat-screen TVs, and computers. Cars, vans and vans line up on the city streets for parking.
What is needed is a comprehensive policy that values preservation and reflects the economic and residential needs of adjacent communities. If the current owners cannot find the financial resources to repair the building, negligent demolition may be the best financial option and provide an opportunity for 21st century turnkey projects.
The current hodgepodge of existing buildings is unappealing, but new three- or four-story mixed-use spaces akin to Kenmore, Williamsville, or Lewiston? Yes please! Preserve the facades if they are viable, demolish what is not and imagine the possibilities.
Sharon Bailey resides in Niagara Falls. She can email him at [email protected]