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Planning Board approves demolition of historic home

Mike Desmond/WBFO News

A 19th Century home on Lafayette Avenue faces the wrecking ball after the City Planning Board approved construction of a new and larger home at 647 Lafayette.

That vote follows a previous decision by the Preservation Board which unanimously rejected demolition of the structure. Those decisions, however, are not binding. While it is clear that the current structure is bad shape after years of poor maintenance, unwise additions and neglect, the demolition is raising issues.

"I never thought a National Register historic district, you could just take a house that's was structurally sound down. I have since learned that that is legally possible," said Gretchen Cercone, President of the Lancaster Avenue Block Club.

"There are now many of us working to protect the historic gems that we have."

The owners argue the present building is in bad shape and isn't worth saving, after they paid $400,000 for it. Planned renovations were later discarded.

The proposal drew more than a dozen speakers on both sides of the issue.

"I'm very excited about this project," said one of the speakers, Chris Bihary.

 "We're excited that the Manleys are investing in the neighborhood. We think it's a great addition, beautiful design and there's a lot of support in the neighborhood. So, we appreciate it. Thank you and as a resident looking forward to it."

Other neighbors want the present building saved or parts of the present structure saved. Opponents see this as the start to the replacement of historic buildings in the community with giant new homes.

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.