Planning Board denies yet another proposal to reuse West Side firehouse

Jun 5, 2018

Another proposed use for a one-time firehouse has been killed. The Buffalo Planning Board has voted against recommending to the Common Council that a micro-brewery restaurant take over the Jersey Street location.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

Six men calling themselves Project X want to spend up to $2 million on converting the former Engine 2/Ladder 9 into a microbrewery, with an outdoor patio and residential upstairs with an addition. The firehouse is so old the neighborhood grew up around it after opening in 1875. It has been pretty much empty and unheated for around 20 years, as owners struggled to find a way to adaptively reuse the structure.

Board Member Cynthia Schwartz said it was the wrong project for this location.

"I just cannot support this, in this very tight, very dense, very old residential neighborhood," said Schwartz. "It's a real quality-of-life issue and that's not criticizing the applicant."

Neighbor Mark Shepard said he would like to see the building reused, since he has made extensive improvements in two buildings next door. However, he agreed a craft brewery is not residential, like the neighborhood.

"It does no one any good to have a vacant building standing on the corner, especially such an architectural jewel as this building is," said Shepard. "So we certainly are in support of mixed-use, which can blend the appropriate types of uses, creating a 24-hour ecology of activity that really brings a vitality to that corner. Unfortunately, this proposal wasn't that."
 

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

Owner spokesman Raphael Blochoe said he is not abandoning the idea of renovating of the building, but is dissapointed in the rejection.

"I'm not a developer. I don't understand the machinery, the political machinery, to become a developer and make something else out of it," said Blochoe. "Five previous owners have failed in doing something to this place, if my count is not mistaken, and I have no other plans."

The old firehouse is a landmark, across the street from a deli and the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum's Porter Hall. While the Planning Board voted against the project, the actual decision for an adaptive reuse permit is made by the Council. That proposal will come before its Legislation Committee Tuesday afternoon.