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Trico Plant No. 1 endangered

Historic “daylight factory” target of city agency, med campus

“Let it rot” is the apparent strategy of the Buffalo Urban Development Corporation, the two-man city agency that has owned Trico Plant No. 1, downtown Buffalo’s iconic industrial landmark,  since 2007. The plant, visible from Lafayette Square to Allentown and the Fruitbelt, occupies the better part of two city blocks between Washington, Goodell, Ellicott, and Virginia streets. Trico was founded by windshield-wiper visionary John Oishei, who established the company as one of the world’s largest wiper companies.

Trico sign
The cultural impact of Oishei is hard to overstate: Thousands of Buffalonians worked at three local Trico plants over 70 years, and thousands of their children had their college tuitions paid by Trico. The John R. Oishei Foundation has for decades been the Buffalo area’s largest. Trico moved manufacturing to Mexico in stages beginning in the 1990’s. By 1998 it closed Plant No. 1. It was bought the next year by Stephen McGarvey, who hoped to convert it into offices and condos. The plant was placed on the National Register in 2000, clearing the way for significant incentives. Work had begun, including a roof tear-off, when McGarvey’s health and financial problems brought things to a halt.

Trico down Goodell
McGarvey died in 2005, and his estate auctioned his properties. BNMC commissioned a conditions report completed in 2006, prior to the auction.The complex was bought by BNMC for $12.4 million, it was reported. Apparently by prior arrangement, BNMC transferred its rights to BUDC immediately, save for 640 Ellicott St., a 1954 structure that BNMC would use for an “Innovation Center.”

Twice, most recently in January 2010, BUDC came before the City of Buffalo Preservation Board to express the desire to demolish the plant, at a public cost of over $4 million. It admitted that it had spent nothing to address any problems noted in the conditions report, and wanted to demolish the plant for future development. In the meantime, it would be a parking lot. Twice, Preservation Board members offered to do their own site inspection, and twice BUDC did not respond.In late 2010, the Medical Campus issued an updated masterplan showing the Trico plant demolished, the site available for development. Last month the BNMC hosted Senator Charles Schumer, and announced that the Innovation Center was full and looking to expand. An optimist would see a restored Trico No. 1 as option no. 1. The realist would say the rationale is being lined up for a demo.  This one’s worth fighting for.

Trico down Washington