The 132-year-old building on Main Street in Springville, with a gaping hole where the roof collapsed into the basement, was appraised at $1.
“I think that was probably very high,” said Seth Wochensky, executive director of the Springville Center for the Arts.
The center has high hopes for the dilapidated two-story brick building at 5 E. Main. Eventually, it wants to open a cafe and offer housing to artists in the structure.
The organization took ownership of the building at the end of July, and is in the middle of a 30-day campaign to raise $30,000 to secure its exterior.
But to get to the point of having a chance to save the building, there had to be a way to first get rid of about $150,000 in liens and back taxes.
“The building was on a crash course,” said Wochensky, who also is on the village Historic Preservation Commission.
The Arts Center is housed in the former Baptist church on North Buffalo Street in Springville, and has its hands full with renovations there.
Still, the building at 5 E. Main “kind of crept out of the dark,” Wochensky said, and was one the Arts Center could not ignore.
The total cost of the project could exceed $400,000, but the gutting and renovations would not make economic sense without the significant offers of local businessmen.
Jay Biscup of Seneca Steel Erectors, a member of the Arts Center board, said he will donate the steel and manpower needed to shore up the building. Architect Jay Braymiller offered to donate his time to design the new interior.
After it was neglected for a decade, demolition of the building was likely, and the village would lose a structure in the heart of its historic district. With thousands of dollars in back taxes and liens on a vacant lot, it’s doubtful it could have been sold. And if back taxes weren’t removed and the building transferred to a responsible owner, Erie County was likely to continue picking up the bill for the unpaid local municipal taxes.
Here’s where multiple levels of government worked with private citizens to help save the building through a series of legal maneuvers. The Erie County Legislature forgave the back taxes, New York State tax liens were forgiven, the owner agreed to turn over the property to the village and the village came to an agreement to transfer it to the Arts Center for $1.
The center plans to convert thebuilding into “Art’s Cafe,” a restaurant serving coffee and light meals on the first floor, as well as programming space. Apartments for visiting artists will be built on the second floor.
There also will be workshop space for fine craft artisans, connecting the cafe and residency program. The uses complement the Arts Center’s building on North Buffalo Street.
The short-term fundraising deadline is Oct. 20. The campaign is trying to raise at least $30,000, but will return any donations if the goal is not met. To donate online to the fund to stabilize the building, go to and click on the drawing of the brick building.
“Our ultimate goal is that it really spurs additional development downtown,” Wochensky said.