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The future of the Trico Complex could hinge on whether the Common Council votes to designate the former windshield wiper manufacturing plant a local landmark.

A public hearing on whether Trico Plant No. 1, a group of buildings at 791 Washington St., should get landmark status will be held at 2 p.m. today in Council Chambers in City Hall. Lawmakers might not vote on the issue today.

Ellicott Council Member Darius G. Pridgen said he is eager to hear from Fruit Belt residents who live nearby to help him determine his opinion.

“It’s going to be important for me to hear from them, the people who actually live in that area,” he said.

A group of Fruit Belt residents is meeting April 22 in City Hall and will advise the Council on development issues in their neighborhood, which is adjacent to the southeastern end of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

The Medical Campus agreed in November to save the trademark portion of the building that bends around Washington Street onto Goodell Street, reversing an earlier plan that would have brought down the entire complex.

But those plans call for Medical Campus developers to tear down the remaining four buildings to make way for an expansion of its Innovation Center.

Local preservationists, however, want the former complex to be designated a local landmark, which would give the community more control over its future.

In addition, demolishing too much of the complex could jeopardize valuable state historic tax credits, which are generally viewed as vital to making any redevelopment feasible.

In May, the Council considered an application from the Campaign for Greater Buffalo History, Architecture & Culture to designate the complex as a local landmark, but took no action.

“It’s tantamount to saying ‘no’ to it really,” said Preservation Board Chairman Paul McDonnell.

The Preservation Board on Thursday again held a public hearing, this time on an application prepared by the board, and voted to designate the complex a local landmark.

The former factory has already been placed on state and national historic registers, but those designations do not influence the future of the complex unless state or federal funds are used, McDonnell said.

The complex, constructed in phases from 1920 to 1950, represents historic architecture and a significant piece of the city’s history, as the place where Trico windshield wipers were made, according to preservationists.

The Council should decide whether the building meets the criteria for local landmark status, and not be influenced by political or economic developmental considerations, said Preservation Board Member Timothy Tielman.

If the Council grants local landmark status to the building, the city’s Preservation Board would have a vote over changes to the building, from additions to demolition.

The building is owned by the Buffalo Brownfield Restoration Corp., a city agency that is a subsidiary of the Buffalo Urban Development Corp., but the Medical Campus has controlled the building since November 2007 under a designated developer agreement, which expires in November.

email: jterreri@buffnews.com