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Fate of Trico building going to full Council

Mike Desmond/WBFO News

The full Common Council will vote on landmarking downtown Buffalo's Trico complex after coming out of committee without a recommendation. The old Trico Plant 1 has been a national historic landmark for years but only local landmark status can make demolishing the vast building complex very difficult. That's why preservationists and the city's Preservation Board are trying again for landmark status.

Tuesday, the Legislation Committee listened for an hour-and-a-half to the issues. The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus put on a full-court press to block landmark status, saying the building is just too large for economic re-use. Preservationists say it's a hallmark of the city's history and could be of value to the medical campus.

Preservationist Tim Tielman wants the building saved for a  developer interested in re-use.

"There's ample evidence that when the universe is wide open, a lot of people can come forward. Designating things certainly is not an impediment, it's an inducement and we'd urge you to support the landmark designation," Tielman said.

The building is in rough shape with little maintenance or repair for years although the medical campus says it has been spending $75,000 a year on keeping it up. Preservationists say that means the building is getting worse, bordering on demolition by neglect.

Medical campus officials say developers don't want to get involved because complete renovation would cost upwards of $100 million. Realtor Jim Militello, who was asked to do a study on re-use of the building, says it's too big and too battered for re-use.

"People love architecture. They want to save buildings. But you quickly miss over the fact that it has to have an economic use. We, as a community, cannot sustain vacant buildings. There's evidence of that in the market. You saw what happened in Lackawanna. You have to bring somebody in that can generate the revenue to carry it," Militello says.

There are about 600,000 square feet of space at issue since some of the many buildings which made up building are in use, including space for the Thomas R. Beecher Innovation Center.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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