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a view from recently demolished 669 Genesee Street

BN 10/13/05 Artspace

Invigorating Main St. pulse, old factory will be new haven for artists to live, work
News Staff Reporter

A project offering low-income, loft-style living and work spaces for artists - the most ambitious to be undertaken in Buffalo - was formally unveiled Wednesday.

The 60-unit project will be in and behind the historic 1914 building that housed Buffalo Electric Vehicle Co., an automobile factory, at 1219 Main St. It is the 19th project by Artspace Projects, the nation's leading nonprofit developer of space for artists and arts organizations.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., who helped secure critical funding, was on hand at Kleinhans Music Hall to celebrate the project's launch.

It was the second stop on her visit to Buffalo on Wednesday, sandwiched between an endorsement of State Sen. Byron W. Brown, Democratic candidate for Buffalo mayor, and support for a state promotional campaign for apples.

"This arts project will bring new life and activity into Buffalo, and further enhance the city's reputation as a creative arts destination," Clinton said.

"The arts are an engine for economic development. They clearly are the means by which we revitalize neighborhoods, buildings and communities."

Mayor Anthony M. Masiello hailed Buffalo Artspace as one in a number of projects that are populating downtown through conversions of historic buildings into lofts, apartments and condominiums.

The mayor said he hoped that Artspace Buffalo would also be a catalyst for more development of industrial structures for artists' living and work spaces.

The design by lead project architect Hamilton Houston Lownie Architects calls for 36 units in the renovated brick factory, also known as the Breitweiser Building. It was recently added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Sizes for the living/work spaces in the five-story building will range from studio to three-bedroom and feature 10-foot-tall windows and exposed concrete floors. The top four floors will be "hard loft" housing - flexible, multipurpose spaces without much trim or adornment, along with exposed masonry walls, ceiling structures and mechanical systems.

Twenty-four units are planned for a new building behind it that architect Matt Meier said will be "a hybrid industrial warehouse environment" that maintains the feel of a residential neighborhood.

Monthly rents will range from $450 to $895, including utilities. There also will be ground-floor commercial space for arts-compatible businesses.

The event brought an outpouring of local arts administrators seeking a glimpse of the Artspace design.

"The timing is really perfect, because we have so many new developments going on downtown," said Lawrence Brose, executive director of CEPA Gallery in the Market Arcade.

"People aren't waiting any longer for something to happen. They are just doing it, and that's really great."

Louis Grachos, director of Albright-Knox Art Gallery, said, "It's an exceptional project, and it's rewarding for me as a museum director to see initiatives like Artspace really taking over in Buffalo."

Clinton's and Masiello's help in bringing the project to Buffalo drew praise from Wendy Holmes, vice president of resource development for 26-year-old, Minneapolis-based Artspace. "We wish we could have this much support in our own back yard," she said.

The $16 million project - which includes $1.1 million from the private sector - is expected to open in December 2006. Interior work is scheduled to begin this December. For information, visit

Clinton also appeared Wednesday at a fund-raising event for Brown in his campaign office and joined Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, and officials from a trade association and JetBlue Airways in supporting a promotional campaign for New York State apples.


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Buffalo News October 11, 2005

Group to study vacant properties in Buffalo, three towns
News Business Reporter

Vacant and abandoned properties cause an unwelcome ripple effect, hurting property values and draining community resources.

A team of outside experts is trying to help Buffalo and three suburbs find solutions, mindful of the financial restraints the city and Erie County face. When their research is finished, they will recommend ideas that local decision makers can use to redevelop vacant properties, reclaim abandoned sites, and prevent others from falling into disrepair.

Experts with the National Vacant Properties Campaign recently visited Buffalo to interview a host of people who deal firsthand with the problem, through avenues like policymaking, the courts or nonprofit work.

Members of the assessment team will return later this month, to focus on vacant properties in Cheektowaga, Tonawanda and Amherst as part of the project's regional approach.

Joseph Schilling, the team's leader, concedes Buffalo is in a difficult position to tackle the problem, since the government is operating under a control board. But he said he was encouraged by the interest shown by the various stakeholders he and others in the group interviewed.

"There are a lot of people who are really committed to Buffalo," said Schilling, who is a professor at the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech in Alexandria, Va. He recently completed other vacant-property assessments in Cleveland and Dayton, Ohio.

Enthusiasm alone won't solve the problem, but Schilling said such interest is essential to build momentum for change.

Four organizations are collaborating on the vacant properties campaign: the Local Initiatives Support Corp. (LISC), Smart Growth America, the International City/County Management Association and the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech.

The University at Buffalo Institute of Local Governance and Regional Growth, and the Amherst Industrial Development Agency are co-sponsoring the project with LISC.

Buffalo was one of seven urban areas around the country chosen from a pool of more than 50 to participate in the National Vacant Properties Campaign project, as Buffalo copes with vacant properties spawned by population decline and urban flight.

Among the problems team members heard local officials say they want to resolve: how to take control of vacant or abandoned properties more quickly, before they fall into disuse, said Michael Clarke, program director of Buffalo LISC.

Another issue team members are researching: increasing coordination among different efforts in the region to deal with vacant properties, so that strategies don't overlap or work at cross purposes.

In other communities, the campaign has encouraged greater local collaboration as a path to success.

Since the study has a regional approach, the team members will also look at vacant properties in Amherst, Cheektowaga and Tonawanda.

"Everyone is coming to understand that this is an issue to deal with," Clarke said.

In Amherst, the problem is primarily chronically vacant or underused retail and commercial buildings. Tonawanda and Cheektowaga have some vacant homes, partly due to population shifts or because some properties have lost market appeal.

The team members plan to finish a draft report by the end of the year and expect to make a formal presentation of their ideas in spring 2006, Clarke said.

Artspace ArchiveAnnals of NeglectBAVPAWhere is Perrysburg?Broken Promises...
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