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Lipsey leaves $5 million to Richardson Olmsted restoration project

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

The first phase of a restoration project beneath the towers of the Richardson Olmsted complex in Buffalo is underway. A $10 million dollar campaign to help fund that project has quickly found itself 50 percent closer to the goal, thanks to a gift by a recently deceased advocate for preserving many of Buffalo's architectural assets.

Leaders of the Richardson Center Corporation announced Tuesday morning that the late Stan Lipsey and his widow, Judith, have donated $5 million dollars to the campaign. Half of that gift is a challenge grant.

Lipsey, a longtime Buffalo News publisher who died November 1, was a longtime champion of saving Buffalo's architectural heritage, including the long-neglected former psychiatric hospital building designed by H.H. Richardson. Now a national historic landmark, the Richardson Olmsted complex will soon house the Hotel Henry Urban Resort and Conference Center.

"If you look up and around, you can see the new entry," said Monica Pellegrino Faix, executive director of the Richardson Center Corporation, as she welcomed guests Tuesday morning. "Two years ago, you would have entered into a very dark-looking basement. Here we are in this glass jewel box."

The hotel is expected to open next spring. Also coming soon to the complex, by December 2017, is the permanent home of the Buffalo Architecture Center.

"It means so much to me to understand that we're going to have a place to celebrate the design excellence that Buffalo is so well-known for," said Kelly Hayes McAlonie, vice chair of the Buffalo Architecture Center. "It's really exciting to have a place where we can convene and we can talk to the general public about the importance of architecture and celebrate our masterpieces."

The Buffalo Architecture Center will bear Lipsey's name when it opens. Among those celebrating Lipsey's contributions to local architectural preservation was Barbara Campagna, president of the center.

"Stan likes to remind us that in 1885, when American architects named the ten best buildings in the country, half of those were Richardson buildings," Campagna said. "We are very fortunate to have this building in Buffalo and to be involved in its restoration."

Among the elected officials present to celebrate the campaign and the Lipseys' donation was State Assemblyman Sean Ryan, who looked upward while thanking the late Mr. Lipsey.

"It's clear that Stan kept his finger really tight on the pulse of this project, so I know right now Stan's keeping an eye on this," Ryan said.  

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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