Seeking to encourage more redevelopment of Buffalo’s trove of historic buildings, city officials on Monday released a new survey report designed to make it easier for local and even out-of-town developers to know what properties could qualify for historic tax credits and what incentives are available.
The new Buffalo Preservation Ready Survey, rolled out by Mayor Byron W. Brown at an afternoon news conference, presents an inventory of 571 aging or neglected properties – mostly downtown – that could be eligible for state and federal historic tax credits as part of renovation projects.
Historic tax credits, which are income tax credits that can total 40 percent of the cost for rehabilitation projects in distressed areas, play significant roles in making the job financially affordable for developers. They have been used locally in many projects over the past decade. Otherwise, the costs are often prohibitive compared to new construction on vacant or “green” land.
The extensive list includes well-known facilities – such as the AM&A’s Building – as well as 215 buildings that haven’t previously been identified as good candidates for adaptive re-use conversions.
All major thoroughfares and many secondary streets through the downtown area are represented, including many on Washington, Main, Pearl, Ellicott, Swan, Seneca, Perry, Scott, Oak and Elm streets and on Michigan, Elmwood, Delaware and South Park avenues, among other streets.
The survey lists the buildings by name and address, describes each one’s general purpose and in what year it was built, and identifies the architect and style. It also includes photos of most of them.
The goal is to spur more of the redevelopment that has been a major aspect of Buffalo’s downtown real estate revival in recent years. In particular, it fits with Brown’s recent call for the creation of 1,300 new units of residential housing in the downtown core by 2018, since most of the adaptive re-use projects involve apartments or condos.
“This really ties in nicely with that, providing this resource guide to the development community for the preservation of structures that are downtown,” Brown said. “It will be an amazing tool to protect the architectural legacy that we have in our city, and more than that, to continue to stimulate economic development, growth and job creation.”
Much of the development to date has been done by a handful of prominent local players with enough knowledge, experience and financial means to get it done, as well as the relationships and familiarity with Western New York and local government to understand the challenges.
But that’s starting to change, and city officials want to encourage that. Brown noted that more investors from around the country and even abroad are starting to show interest in Buffalo’s redevelopment, citing recent conversations he’s had with Canadians and with a group from China.
The city plans to send out the 348-page survey and accompanying documents as a book and on a CD-ROM to more than 500 developers.
The survey, a joint venture of the city and the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, is part of the larger Buffalo Building Re-Use Project that was started at the city’s behest by the Buffalo Niagara Partnership and is now housed at the Buffalo Urban Development Corp.
The preservation survey was conducted by the Buffalo office of PanAmerican Consultants, and was funded by a grant of $60,000 from the state Historic Preservation Office and $20,000 from National Grid.
Ruth Pierpont, deputy commissioner for the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, called the survey “a landmark project which is key to supporting the continued revitalization of Buffalo.”
In all, the survey covered 954 acres or 1.5 square miles of the city, with the majority being the Central Businesss District. It also included two sections on the city’s old “belt-line” rail line, with 68 acres near East Delavan and Northland avenues and 16.2 acres in the Fougeron-Urban area near French and Urban streets.