Broadway-Fillmore residents consider Polonia Historic District

Jan 24, 2018

Broadway-Fillmore area residents had another chance Tuesday night to find out why - or why not - it makes sense to create a historic district in Buffalo's old Polonia.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

A section of Buffalo's East Side might become a historic district, if its residents go along. Led by the Historic East Side Neighborhood Initiative, some groups want to create a district in an area around Broadway and Fillmore, altogether 175 buildings and a bunch of vacant lots.

The original plan was much larger, but there were too many vacant lots for Albany to agree. The process to create the district winds through City Hall, Albany and Washington.

Historic East Side Chairperson Jim Serafin said the district would bring back the neighborhood.

"What's going to happen as improvement in other parts of our city, as a historic district takes hold and people buy into it what begins to happen is people start believing in the areas," Serafin said. "They start maintaining their properties, housing properties go up in value, they stabilize the neighborhood and it eventually it becomes much more the historic area that it once was."

During Tuesday's meeting at the Matt Urban Center, people were told a district could lead to tax breaks for building repairs and more control over demolitions. Preservation Buffalo Niagara Executive Director Jessie Fisher said she lives in one and knows the rules.
 

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

"What we find in historic districts is the community does have a greater level of control over new development that happens in the community and so, for most folks or folks who see this as important, they see a tradeoff," Fisher said. "Is there a little bit more rigamarole in the paperwork? Yeah, maybe. Not going to deny that. We don't think it's as onerous as some people."

Esterphine Greene, secretary of the Hamlin Park Community and Taxpayers Association, said there are benefits to being a historic district.

"There's power in numbers," Greene said. "I think this neighborhood needs to get organized. The different groups need to come together and I think they need to not focus on the money aspect. First of all, it's cheaper than renting, but if you're a homeowner, you're always going to spend money."

She said there also are tax breaks that can make home improvements less expensive and greater control over demolitions, which are very important in the district.

"The first thing I want to know, which buildings are historic?" asked One in Christ Church Pastor Frederick Gelsey.