Within the last year I have written a great deal about cities and the historic buildings they should be obligated to see maintained. Many cities cannot, will not, or do not want to penalize or fine the industrial and commercial property owners who fail to maintain the buildings within their care. Often what happens is that these neglected buildings are then demolished because they are supposedly beyond repair or structurally unsound.
It should be noted that buildings are rarely too far gone, even when roofs are missing and the “elements” have begun to reek havoc, and that often these very buildings are “structurally sound.”
Architect and longtime preservationist Howard Decker recently stated, “Just for the record, as an architect with a lifetime of reusing historic structures… buildings [are rarely] too far gone to be recycled. I believe that this very website (www.rochestersubway.com) has run a series of images showing buildings in worse condition that have been repurposed… Be careful not to administer the last rites until the patient has actually expired.”
Eventually, however, property owners use the perceived “dilapidated” state of their properties as a means to secure demolition from the municipality.
Some notable property struggles in which building owners argued with a great amount of obfuscation and subterfuge that the buildings were “too far gone” include: Cataract Brewery (demolished) in Rochester, which is well-documented; Otisca Brewery buildings in Syracuse (demolished); and the recently demolished Bethlehem Steel North Office Building in Lackawanna.
The latest addition to the list of neglected buildings that will likely be demolished is the Erie Canal-era Brennan Motor Complex in Syracuse. See the fascinating story and video here and comments here and architectural history here (includes photographs). The Brennan Motor Complex is eligible for designation as a Protected Site in Syracuse, as well as listing on the State and National Registers. Certainly all buildings are ready for conversion.
Perhaps it is time that someone develop an app for the preservation community to use in the fight against property owners who neglect historic buildings.
The historic Westminster Presbyterian Church, on West Main Street in Rochester may join the list of demolished neglected landmarks this week. The Rochester Zoning Board will decide the fate of 660 West Main Street after a public hearing this Thursday (tomorrow), 12:00pm/noon at City Hall external link room 302A.
If you would like to speak at this hearing please call (585) 428-6526 ahead of the meeting ensure your spot.
If you can’t make the meeting, written comments may be submitted by July 16th, 2014 via email to Jill.Symonds@CityofRochester.gov.
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Tags: Bethlehem Steel, Brennan Motor Complex, Cataract Brewery, historic preservation, Howard Decker, Iola Tuberculosis Sanatorium, Joel Helfrich, Lackawanna, Otisca Brewery, Rochester, Rochester landmark, Syracuse, Westminster Presbyterian Church
This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 16th, 2014 at 7:58 am and is filed under Opinion, Reader Submitted Stories, Rochester History, Urban Development. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.