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February 2005
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State seeks to Demo Art-El, symbol of Art Park


By Tim Tielman

It was reported in recently in the Buffalo News (3/29/05) that the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation is planning to demolish, without public discussion, the landmark 1974 ArtEl, a 40 x 500-foot covered boardwalk that is a unique piece of architecture, landscape architecture, and art. It was built to be used by visual artists and the public, for both prosaic functions as well as transcendent ones. In addition, it is a thoroughly appealing structure to experience by people of all ages: for small children, it is a playground to end all playgrounds, and for adults it is a stimulating promenade resonating with possibilities and prospects. It is a superb, joyful work from a period not noted for joy or good civic works, but rather chilly and humorless design.

[A photo album can be found in the lower left column. Click on the thumnails to view full-size images]

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Famed Adam Mickiewicz Library, Polish beer, kielbasa, and squirt guns added to annual Churches, Bars & Markets: Polonia at Eastertime tour, Saturday March 26, Noon. Best bonnet to earn a free tour and universal admiration.

1333319_img_2 Campaign for Greater Buffalo Executive Director Tim Tielman is conducting his annual Easter Eve walking tour of East Side architectural and cultural landmarks, Churches, Bars, and Markets: Polonia at Eastertime, on Saturday March 26 at Noon. The tour, including a Polish beer or beverage, kielbasa, and a squirt gun at the Adam Mickiewicz Library and Dramatic Circle (“Mickey’s”) lasts two hours and costs $15 ($12 for Campaign members). The best Easter bonnet worn by a participant (store bought or homemade) will earn the wearer free admission. The tour goes on rain or shine and no reservations are necessary. Meet at Kent and Lombard St., outside Broadway Market. Info: 884-3138

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Problems with ECIDA Process for J.N. Adam/AM&A project

By Chris Hawley

A newly revived request to secure $11 million in public funds for the redevelopment of the former J.N. Adam/AM&A's complex is a textbook example of how big government subsidies can reward inefficient economic behavior, which in this case would make possible the sale of a historic and architecturally significant property at a highly inflated price so it can be demolished to construct a substantially smaller building in its place.

In a downtown where vacant buildings and empty lots abound, the public should be asked to support only the projects that, like the LL Berger renovation and the new National Life Insurance building at Main and Chippewa streets, are attracting new investment to downtown through rehab projects and infill development that require minimal subsidies.

A corporate welfare project to demolish the entire J.N. Adam block for a "shovel ready" site when 42 percent of the surface area of downtown is already vacant and shovel ready cannot be justified.

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Minimum Sidewalk Width, load bearing should be increased

Typicial sidewalk requirements in the City of Buffalo are for a walking surface about 4 feet wide, with a depth of concrete of about four inches. This is poured over a gravel base. This design is not up to Buffalo winters, nor is it, in width, up to facilitating a pleasant walk by two people side by side in any weather. This harms neighborhood commercial areas and all the individuals who would like to, or must, walk along sidewalks. Planners contemplating new developments or redesigning old ones would help citizens, merchants, and the city as a whole by increasing pedestrian mobility through enhanced sidewalk standards. Citizens should advocvate for them.

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J.N. Adam (AM&As) Threatened by Vampiric Policies of Development Agencies

By Chris Hawley

Jn_adam_1948If all goes according to plan, the Erie County Industrial Development Agency (ECIDA) will use its eminent domain powers to take over and demolish the former J.N. Adam department store at 389 Main Street at Eagle in the heart of downtown Buffalo (left, in 1948. Photo courtesy of Buffalo & Erie Co. Historical Society). This will cost taxpayer’s about $11 million. The ECIDA will get around $2 million in management fees for its role. These fees are the lifeblood for the ECIDA and similar agencies. That the fees are often available only on sites occupied by buildings, it creates a clear incentive for, preservationists argue, development agencies to turn into vampiric sponsors of demolition, sucking the blood out of downtown by harvesting buildings for cash. J.N. Adam is important historically, architecturally, and functionally to downtown. That such a building is being targeted by the ECIDA, spurred on by the cheerleading Buffalo News, is an essay into the counterproductive process that has ruled the development industry in Buffalo for 50 years.

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J.N. Adam: Buffalo’s Flagship of Cool

By Tim Tielman
The J.N. Adam department store (also known as AM&A’s, for the last long-time tenant), is downtown Buffalo’s largest and best example of modernism. Completed in 1948, it was the last department store construction project in the city of Buffalo. Now, just over 50 years later, it is threatened with demolition by the Erie County Industrial Development Agency, which is proposing to spend $11 million to acquire and demolish the building for a shovel-ready site. The agency would gain an estimated $2 million in fees from the transaction.

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