Main Street building demolition on hold for now | Local news

The owners of a former furniture store building on Main Street and local preservationists who want to protect the building from being demolished have been given extra time to come up with a stabilization plan for the structure.

The city’s legal department told Niagara Village, LLC, owners of the former Hart to Hart furniture store building located at 2018 Main St., that it has until December 10 to submit plans to shore up the structure which, after After years of neglect, it has been deemed “unsafe” by the city’s code enforcement department.

Under the city’s amended demolition order, Niagara Village is required to submit engineering drawings setting out the details of all work to be performed and complete applications for any associated building permits.

Niagara Village, LLC is an affiliate of Buffalo-based investment firm Blue Cardinal Capital, which purchased the building and 37 others along the Main Street corridor as part of a $3.2 million real estate deal in June 2019. The The firm initially announced plans to restore and reactivate several of the key parcels acquired under the agreement. Those plans have stalled amid financial challenges in the wake of the pandemic.

In an email obtained by the Niagara Gazette, city attorney Tom DeBoy said the city’s initial demolition order, dated Oct. 31, was due to the “deplorable” condition of the building’s southeast corner, which according to him shares part of the historic three-story façade. in the 2000 block of Main Street.

DeBoy said it appeared to the city, based on a comparison of aerial photos of the building from 2020 with newer photos taken in August, that the area of ​​the building’s collapsed roof has “increased significantly” under Niagara Village ownership.

Additionally, based on the lack of permits Niagara Village has obtained since taking over ownership, DeBoy said the city “has come to the conclusion that nothing has been done to stabilize the structure to prevent further collapse of the roof and the three floors directly below.

According to DeBoy, representatives from Niagara Village “assured” the city last August that it was aware of the structural problems and the need for “immediate stabilization.”

DeBoy noted that John Cake, a Niagara Village representative, in a letter to the city dated Aug. 16, indicated that the company’s private engineer, Buffalo-based Syracuse Engineers, recommended installing temporary bracing in a part from the south wall of the building. The reinforcement, Cake suggested, would make the building “stable and safe from total collapse.”

“We will immediately begin arrangements to install the recommended temporary reinforcement,” the letter noted.

In his email, DeBoy noted that during a Nov. 7 hearing by city Code Enforcement Director Corey Baskerville, Cake discussed financial issues with Blue Cardinal but never directly addressed its “broken promise” to stabilize 2018 Main St.

In his email, DeBoy said the city is interested in taking action at 2018 Main St. because it doesn’t want a repeat of an incident in Buffalo, where a three-story brick-and-mortar structure suffered a collapsed roof on July 2. The collapse of that building, located at the corner of North Oak and Genesee streets, destroyed the block’s historic façade and sent bricks tumbling onto the street and sidewalk.

DeBoy and City Manager Anthony Restaino did not respond to emails from the Niagara Gazette seeking additional comment.

Cake also did not respond to the newspaper’s requests for comment.

The Furniture Building at 2018 Main St. and its owners garnered support from some community members and two nonprofit organizations involved in local historic preservation efforts.

Christiana Limniatis, director of preservation services for Preservation Buffalo Niagara, a nonprofit group that advocates for the protection of historically significant structures throughout Western New York, said her group views 2018 Main St. as a building that are worth saving. She also encouraged the city to bear with the building’s owners, noting that the property is supposed to be part of a larger redevelopment effort along the once-vibrant Main Street corridor.

“Niagara Falls has lost a lot,” Limniatis said. “There has been so much amazing architecture that has been lost. Losing and continuing to undermine this incredible built environment is just a tragedy for the citizens of Niagara Falls.”

She believes it would be a mistake for the city to go ahead with demolition that would remove a building in the middle of the 2000 block of Main Street, leaving a gap between neighboring buildings to the north and south.

“We have example after example of how that has not been a successful plan,” he added. “If we demolish it, it will stay that way forever.”

Kevin Connors, an engineer with the Buffalo firm, eco_Logic STUDIO who works with another local nonprofit, the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area, said he believes the façade at 2018 Main St. is salvageable.

He said he is hopeful that by working with the city and the building’s owners, a solution can be found to preserve the building.

“My hope is that there may be some mechanism by which the city or funds through Preservation Buffalo Niagara can help cover the costs of just stabilizing the facade,” Connors said.

Failure to do so, he argued, could deal a blow to long-term efforts to resurrect the city’s North End.

“It was built by people from Niagara Falls,” Connors said. “If people have an opinion about what’s left in Niagara Falls from better days, I think they’d be interested in salvaging some of that history.”

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