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Buffalo lawmakers to vote on demolitions moratorium in heritage corridor

Albright-Knox Art Gallery
The Freedom Wall greets travelers through the corridor.

Tuesday afternoon, Buffalo Common Councilmembers will be asked to approve a moratorium on demolitions on city-owned property along the Michigan Avenue African American Heritage Corridor.

Michigan arrows through Buffalo's black history, built on buildings like the Nash House, the Colored Musicians Club and the Michigan Street Baptist Church. There are also decrepit buildings and vacant lots and an increasing number of development possibilities among the old buildings.

Preservation Buffalo Niagara Executive Director Jessie Fisher said vacant space exists because many had written off Michigan Avenue.

"That was definitely the attitude in the '70s, '80s and '90s," Fisher said, "and I think through the hard work of a lot of people who have shown that there is a market for these historic buildings, and then the folks who have actually taken the time to go through and do surveys and figure out what are important buildings."

Council President Darius Pridgen said he put in legislation for the moratorium because he was recently approached about a development plan that called for another old building built in the 1800s to be knocked down and replaced. The council president turned down the plan and decided to move quickly to protect the vast and extended corridor, from East Ferry to South Division Street.

"So I thought it was time to make this move, so that developers or anybody else who's coming along to buy property in that corridor that they know exactly what the expectations are," Pridgen said.

Fillmore District Councilmember David Franczyk said his district lost many historic structures in the city's mass demos.

"My district had more demolitions than any other district because of dilapidated properties that were ruined," Francyzk said. "Some of them had to come down, but a demolition is always a Pyrrhic victory because you know you're getting rid of blight and getting rid of something dangerous, possibly to a neighbor next door. But on the other hand, you're losing housing stock that should have been maintained in the first place if the landlord or whoever had it didn't keep it up."

Franczyk said those demolitions have hampered efforts to have more historic districts in his district.

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