[Full disclosure: For nearly a decade, I represented and assisted in various ways residents and property owners on Granger Place and Forest Avenue fighting to preserve the character of their historic Elmwood Village neighborhood, and prevent the demolition of the buildings at the corner of Elmwood and Forest avenues.]
It has been a rough year-and-a-half on the block of Elmwood Avenue between Forest and Bird that developers and the media have often referred to as “The Gateway” to the Elmwood Village.
First, near the end of December 2017, eleven century-old structures at the southeast corner of Elmwood and Forest were demolished to make way for Chason Affinity’s “1111 Elmwood Avenue” mixed-use project. This destructive dismantling of a highly intact historic neighborhood occurred despite the stern warnings expressed in a December 2016 letter from New York State’s Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). Notably, the state’s premier preservation agency advised the City of Buffalo that Chason Affinity’s demolition plans would “adversely impact” the Elmwood (East) and (West) Historic Districts, and that the “monumental scale” of the new complex would dwarf the surrounding area, eliminate the rhythm of the existing streetscape, and impose visual impacts that would clearly and demonstrably alter the setting and environment of the Elmwood Village.
Neither Chason Affinity, nor Delaware District Council Member Joel Feroleto, were moved.
Then, a horrific early-morning fire at 1074 Elmwood Avenue on May 7, 2019 not only destroyed a residential building, but tragically took the life of a 55-year-old tenant, Curtis Brown.
The latest misfortune – while insignificant when compared to the May 7th blaze – occurred around 1:00 PM today, June 25, 2019. A major portion of the façade at 1086-1088 Elmwood Avenue – home of the Half & Half boutique and Parkway Hair salon – collapsed and tumbled to the sidewalk on a beautiful and sunny summer afternoon. Fortunately, as reported in the media, no passers-by or individuals inside the commercial and residential structure were injured when the façade suddenly failed.
I happened to be walking down Elmwood in the direction of Forest Avenue not long after the debris landed on the sidewalk, so I was able to take the photographs inserted above. Ironically, the purpose of my stroll was to check out the current status of the Chason Affinity project. I certainly didn’t expect to see another unfortunate event on this gateway block.
As of the 6 PM newscast on WIVB-TV, the cause of the façade collapse was still being investigated. A woman identified as the owner of the building – Kilby Bronstein – told the reporter that the building’s roof was new, and that she was relieved that no one was hurt. An April 2017 story on-line refers to Jennifer and Kilby Bronstein as the new owners of Half & Half boutique.
Debra Sidel, the prior owner of Half & Half and the 1086-1088 Elmwood building, was a staunch supporter of Chason Affinity’s demolition plans and massive Elmwood Avenue complex. She voluntarily provided a sworn affidavit to the developer in support of a lawsuit that extinguished deed restrictions (dating from 1892) which had prohibited construction of any commercial structure at the southeast corner of Elmwood and Forest. [According to City of Buffalo property information, Ms. Sidel sold 1086-1088 Elmwood Avenue on January 19, 2016 for $575,000.00 to Brockport Land Associates, LLC.]
By the way, Chason Affinity’s project is being constructed diagonally across the street from 1086-1088 Elmwood Avenue and its broken façade. [Note: 1086-1088 Elmwood was built in 1915.] I’m certainly not a structural engineer, and it may just be a coincidence, but I can’t help but wonder: Did any of the substantial demolition, excavation, or construction activities in furtherance of the “1111 Elmwood Avenue” development shake the ground or otherwise adversely impact the structural integrity of the home of Half & Half boutique? Just asking.
With All Due Respect,