December 19th, 2019- The Buffalo News
By Mark Sommer
A developer and preservation group have partnered to save a pre-Civil War-era Sycamore Street building that not long ago was threatened with demolition.
Preservation Buffalo Niagara announced Thursday that it has been given a four-story red brick building at 72 Sycamore St. near Michigan Avenue from Rocco Termini. The organization plans to revive the dilapidated building that has been vacant for about five years.
“We’re excited to step up and save this building and put it back into productive use for the city,” said Jessie Fisher, the preservation group’s executive director. “We wouldn’t be able to do this type of work without partners like Rocco, who understand how important preservation is,” she said.
Preservation Buffalo Niagara plans to put three units of affordable housing on the top floor. Heart of the City Neighborhoods, a local nonprofit affordable housing organization, plans to rent office space on the second floor, and the preservation group will use the lower level for a Preservation Resource Center to hold workshops and educational gatherings.
A stair tower and elevator will be added to make the building handicapped accessible, with a mural planned for the outside of the tower.
Fisher put the renovation cost at $2.1 million.
“That’s what happens when nobody puts a penny into a building for 50 years,” she said.
Termini bought the property and another next door – since destroyed by fire – for $125,000 in 2017. The previous owner had sought to demolish the former boarding house.
“Jessie called me and said how important it was for Buffalo,” Termini said. “Preservation is part of me. That’s the reason I did it. You have to walk the walk if you talk the talk.”
The former Eliza Quirk Boarding House was constructed circa 1848. It was built as a residence for Quirk and for use as a boarding house.
It is one of the few remaining intact boarding houses and pre-Civil War buildings still standing downtown, Fisher said. It is locally landmarked and on the state Register of Historic Places. The group is working to also get it listed on the national register.
“This is really a building that tells the story of Buffalo’s growth as a canal town,” Fisher said. “The Erie Canal was about 20 years old at that point, and Buffalo was just growing every day by hundreds and hundreds of people, and they needed places to live. Boarding houses like this one provided one of those options.”
Preservation Buffalo Niagara received an initial grant from the Better Buffalo Fund, and it is working on securing more funds for the renovation.
Fisher said she hopes the building will be fully renovated and occupied in summer 2021.
Earlier this month, an emergency demolition was ordered for a Civil War-era building at 435 Ellicott St., several blocks away, due to neglect.
The owner of another building, the dilapidated circa 1847 building next door on Sycamore, had his application for demolition denied earlier this year. The clock is ticking on that building too, Fisher said.
“We do hope he will either sell the building to someone who can care for it, or will be compelled to make these necessary structural changes,” Fisher said. “We should not be losing buildings from 1847, 1848 when we have so few of them left, especially in a downtown corridor that was so ravaged by urban renewal.”