We Support BYP & PBN's Preservation Action Agenda!
There is strong consensus that Buffalo’s rich trove of historic architecture is central to its re-birth. From the New York Times to the Wall Street Journal to the Toronto Sun, when Buffalo makes the must visit lists, it is our architectural heritage that puts us on the map. And as an economic development tool, it is safe to say that there has never been a more successful program: over $3 billion dollars in private economic investments have been made in our historic architecture over the last three years in New York State, spurred by the New York State and Federal Tax Credit programs available for renovating and restoring historic buildings. The City of Buffalo has led the State in utilizing the Tax Credits: In the past 8 years, Buffalo has added more than 7,000 properties to the National Register, primarily with the interest in the use of the credits and contributing to state & local planning initiatives. Preservation creates local jobs for a skilled workforce, increases heritage tourism opportunities, and instills a sense of pride in place for residents.
Even so, events of the last several months show that the current system of preservation policy and practice is simply not working in Buffalo. The tools available to preservationists are highly political, and often reactionary. Politicians and developers are also calling for more guidance and prioritization. Preservation organizations and community groups lack sufficient resources to properly and proactively survey resources and then implement findings of those surveys.
If we are to truly integrate preservation into our larger development narrative for the City of Buffalo, we must come together to reform and rebuild our systems. Preservation Buffalo Niagara and Buffalo’s Young Preservationists have come together to create an Action Agenda of simple reforms that could be implemented in the next 6 – 12 months and will make a significant difference in how we undertake historic preservation activities in the City of Buffalo. We hope that you will join with us to advocate for their implementation. We will be providing opportunities to get involved in the implementation process and we will keep you apprised of progress.
Preservation Action Agenda
1. Create a community-driven pro-active Preservation Plan that reflects Best Practices to ensure the City retains its Certified Local Government status
It is clear that most people understand how important preservation has been to the City of Buffalo’s efforts at re-inventing itself. What’s not always agreed upon is how to embed preservation into the development codes and practices of the City. A preservation plan must be created that can bring various stakeholders together to form a blueprint for how our conceptual desire to incorporate preservation into the future of our City can translate into concrete policies and actions that can give preservationists, developers, and lawmakers guidance on how to proceed.
2. Establish a demolition moratorium until such time as the Preservation Plan is complete
To ensure that we do not lose any important buildings while we are putting the preservation plan into place, a moratorium for all demolitions besides emergency demolitions should be put into place until such time as policies and procedures can be enacted that protect our historic architecture.
3. Create design guidelines and other technical assistance for property owners living in local historic districts
To make historic preservation more user-friendly in the City of Buffalo, and ease some of the concerns that property owners express when the topic of local landmarking comes up, design guidelines and other such technical guidance should be issued by the Preservation Board in order to guide property owners in following the dictates of the Preservation Board. Steps must be put into place that give homeowners and developers better up-front guidance regarding what can and cannot but done with locally designated historic resources, and the process for approving such items must be made as efficient as possible.
4. Fill the long-vacant Preservation Planner position with a qualified professional
The City of Buffalo, despite its vast historic resources, has been without a dedicated preservation planner for several years. Filling this position could help implement the Preservation Plan, coordinate issues across multiple stakeholders, and serve to streamline applications to the Preservation Board. Cities with architectural legacies as important as Buffalo’s have strong systems in place that allow for staff approvals of the majority of alteration requests, allowing the Preservation Board to spend time on the most important issues as well as on ensuring that Best Practices are followed and that the preservation plan is implemented.
5. Fill the vacant seats on the Preservation Board
The Preservation currently only has 9 of 11 seats filled. Filling these vacant positions with people knowledgeable in the realm of preservation will bring more resources to the Board.
6. Survey the City of Buffalo by working directly with preservation groups to provide resources to identify, research and survey the City of Buffalo and to follow-up on the recommendations of those and previous Survey works
Buffalo is a City of great historic resources, however, the City has not been comprehensively surveyed, and where surveyed, the results and recommendations of those surveys have not been implemented. The City should work closely with preservation and community groups to develop a strategy for systematically surveying the architecture of the City, updating surveys where needed, and following through on the recommendations of those surveys in a timely manner. This will entail assisting in accessing resources for this work in addition to technical assistance and a strong commitment to implementation.
Preservation Buffalo Niagara § (716) 852-3300 § email@example.com
Buffalo’s Young Preservationists § firstname.lastname@example.org