Category Archives: Preservation

You give love, er, preservation a bad name

(apologies to Bon Jovi)

I ran across an editorial in The Sun the other day from another anti-Wal-Mart individual. Obviously, anti-Wal-Martites are not at all unique, but this one tries to play the preservation card.

While Hamburg seems to be split on the issue of the proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter, I stand firm on my belief that Wal-Mart is bad for our community.

To any supporters of Wal-Mart, I recommend the book “How Wal-Mart is Destroying America (and the World)” by Bill Quinn. In addition to being a quick, easy and informative read, it is not costly and should be available at any local bookstore.

I also must defend Brierwood Plaza, much to the dismay of many. To many of you this is an eyesore, simply a string of derelict buildings that have no use but demolition. Has anyone taken a walk around there lately? I go almost daily. Keep an open mind and try to see some beauty in it. I cannot possibly be the only resident who sees some strange beauty in the names of stores lost to time: Schiffs and Davids immortalized in tiled entrances, Hens & Kelly, or rather “Kelly” hanging off-center, a prime example of Western New York’s rich retail history.
Nothing’s beyond repair until gone forever.

To the average resident, the plaza may be an eyesore, but let me lay out the following scenario. It is the late 1950s as shopping plazas are just coming about as a means to provide many different shops and vendors in one convenient location. It’s a new concept. These were designed to be unique and stand out.

Now fast forward to the current time and place. The average large retail center is one or several large grey, brown, beige, mauve, tan, boxes. Our current Wal-Mart is no exception. Fast forward again. See that grey lifeless box at the corner of Route 20A and McKinley Parkway with potholes in the parking lot. The lights go out and may never go on again. At least the Hens & Kelly and surrounding shopping plaza had some thought and design put into them.

Better to revitalize the current space and fill it with local business than trade one neglected structure for another with far less character and no element of design.

Joseph Dietterich

Brierwood Plaza is an eyesore to many because it IS an eyesore. There’s not much room for interpretation here. I have been to the plaza recently to snap a couple [bad camera phone] photos of the plaza.

Brierwood Plaza

Brierwood Plaza

Brierwood Plaza

Now what about the nondescript, strip mall architecture here makes it worthy of “preservation”? Not a thing. Sure, they might have used some tile in the building somewhere, but that in itself does not make it preservation-worthy. The building itself must have historical or architectural significance.

Brierwood Plaza certainly does stand out when you drive by it, but not for good reasons. Any developer that wanted to “save” this strip mall had plenty of years to do so. Now, someone wants to give the whole thing an overhaul and construct a building that will be a benefit to the surrounding residents, not the nearby rats. Don’t claim “preservation” as part of your own personal vendetta. It dilutes the term and the work that true preservationists do.

More on the Marine Star

I decided to take my interest in the newly found Marine Star project a step further and contact the project to see if I could get an update on their status. I also extended an olive branch on behalf of the CTRC, since us large-scale preservation projects need each other’s support as much as possible. I very quickly received a reply:

Dear Derek,

Thank you for your interest in the Marine Star Project. We do have the option from the vessel owner, to market the ship, purchase the ship, and versee its restoration. The ultimate goal is the University at Sea School Project. We have not yet reached agreement, with any schools to oversee or to be the funnel for accreditation of the administartive portion of the program.

At this point all we are looking for is a University that is accredited that will say “Yes to sanctioning and marketing a University at Sea Program aboard the Marine Star.” Money to restore the Marine Star is not the issue. If we can secure a University Agreement, we are certain that the bond financing will be an easy step to restore the ship. We have the full and complete support of the owners in this endeavor. This has never before happened in the last 20 years.

With the vessel looking unsightly, it is hard to market the vision, and yet it is structurally sound. This is a ship that has not even found its purpose

We are looking at an interim plan to secure a Ferry Agreement for Marine Star for a line across Lake Erie or Lake Michigan. The primary pupose being to have an economically viable reason for its restoration, and then in Phase II, in the off season implment the Seas School Project. We are in discussions with four different cities at this time in this regard.

In our view, any person that has ever seen this ship sail would tell you it is the grandest thing the Great Lakes has ever experienced. A tremendous ship that was 50 years ahead of its time.

Thank you for your support, and feel free to write anytime,

We may need your concurrence, if we start moving the ship towards federal grants. The United States should not lose this ship. IT is a rarity. We only have a short time to bring a project to the table, otherwise we could lose it.

God Bless,

Larry Lallo

Their plan sounds pretty solid to me. I don’t know the difficulties involved in gaining accreditation, but it can’t be much more difficult than trying to raise the money needed to actually do the restoration, and they don’t sound very concerned about that.

I wish the project the best of luck, because it’s a win for everyone – a win for Buffalo to have one more blight removed from the waterfront, a win for the ship as it gets to continue to serve it’s purpose and not be destined for a scrap yard, a win for all the people who have sailed on it in the past who’s memories of the ship won’t end with a vision of a rusting hull, and a win for all the future occupants who get to build off that history and add their own experiences to it.


A new life for the Marine Star/Aquarama?

While out geocaching on Monday, we happened to be near the Marine Star/Aquarama – that big rusting hulk of a ship, moored up next to the grain silos along Route 5. Since I had my camera with me, it seemed like a good chance to try and get up close to the ship. As soon as we walked onto the marina driveway, we were quickly stopped by an employee who then referred us to his boss, who didn’t have any problems with us walking down towards the ship and taking photos, so away we went. For those who haven’t been able to see it up close, here you go.





Afterwards, I was searching around the internet for some history on the ship, and ran across something I hadn’t heard about before. There’s a new group that’s looking to restore the ship and turn it into a floating mission and university.

The Project purpose is firstly to restore the ship Marine Star. And secondly, to convert the Marine Star into an active Mission University at Sea Campus. Imagine a 520 foot 60 year old ship that has only been in use for less than ten years of its history, with its hull preserved in fresh water. This is a ship searching for its destiny.

The Marine Star SEAS School Project has two phases. The first Phase of the Project is dedicated to the preservation and adaptive retrofitting of the WWII era Ship known as the Marine Star, and also known as the Aquarama, during her service on the Great Lakes from 1956 to 1962.

The second Phase of the project will be the establishment of the University at Sea campus and curriculum. That is to carry passengers and carry cargo. These passengers however would not be soldiers or vacationers, but they would be students of all ages enrolled in a Christian Faith based on board accredited school, studying to obtain college credits. The ship when in port, would serve as an active outreach station for the students to apply what they have learned in their classes, in real life sustainable education ways. Even teaching others what you have learned. For example, nursing students would do nursing humanitarian outreaches. Computer students would train others how to do what they have learned and complete selected projects for local schools or businesses. Hydrology students could work with a missionary team to dig wells for those that may have to walk a mile to obtain potable water.

Wow. That’s a big task, but it seems that they have done quite a bit of planning and at least some hunting for funding. Their blog hasn’t had any updates since March, but it seems that there are other similar successful projects that have already been realized. It would certainly be a better option than scrapping it, or letting it sit there continuing to rust.

Incidentally, those silos that sit next to the Marine Star seem to be in pretty good shape, should someone want to turn them into a waterfront attraction of some sort. Think of the awesome waterslides you could have coming out of the top of that thing!


We can’t save anything!

Another great article on Buffalo Rising, this time showing just how little of the core of downtown has actually been preserved since circa 1960.

The fact is, one of the few bright spots in Buffalo’s economy has been the power of the city’s high quality historic architecture and a recent wave of restorations to stimulate growth. Buffalo’s historic Allentown, Elmwood Village, and several north Buffalo neighborhoods have leveraged the power of their unique architecture and urbanism to fuel major renewal in the city. Much of downtown’s new residential growth is taking place in historic loft buildings that were recently slated to be demolished for a now tabled convention center. This renewal has even started to attract developers who plan new buildings. Almost every major renovation in Buffalo has met with indignation by those who would claim that it was a waste of money, not feasible, and not worth the effort. Yet time after time these projects have proven successful while those cherished shovel ready sites languish in their emptiness.

I hope that the shovel-ready trend is finally over and the city “leadership” recognizes that Buffalo’s niche in the incredibly expensive New York State is it’s heritage. Of course we want to attract businesses and need economic development for this area to survive, but to do that Buffalo needs to leverage every advantage it has. Nice people and cheap housing aren’t enough.

Quarry Market

Back in December, I had the opportunity to travel to San Antonio, TX for work. While there I made it a point to see not only the Alamo and the Riverwalk, but an excellent example of adaptive reuse.

Quarry Market is a beautiful new shopping center built on the former site of the Alamo Cement company. They kept a lot of the original elements of the industrial site and built their theme around that. Contaminated buildings were razed, in some cases a replica was built in it’s place.

Continue reading Quarry Market