Apr 7, 2014

Another Dollar House is in Safe Hands on the East Side

It’s official you can add another save on the near east side due to the homestead program by the City of Buffalo. I’ve posted about this beauty on Masten Avenue once before and since then my inbox has been inundated with emails inquiring about purchasing the dollar house and rehabbing it. One of the people to get in touch with me has gone the distance and the home now has a new owner in Robert Galbraith.
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A native of East Aurora, Rob moved to Buffalo a few years ago and is a founding member of the Farmer Pirates CooperativeThis east side agriculture co-op was created two years ago to secure land for the future growth of east side urban farming. If you're keeping track, Rob is the third homesteader to come from East Aurora originally in addition to Matt Newton at the Lyth cottage and Mike Raleigh at 26 Woodlawn. David Torke at fixBuffalo was instrumental with those two acquisitions. 
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In addition to his work with Farmer Pirates, Rob started the Michigan Riley Farm in 2011 with a series of vacant lots purchased at the 2011 In-Rem auction. "We will be growing a lot more intensively with aims to sell at the Foundry Second Saturday sales and from a stand on the premises. We've also partnered with Art Farms who will soon be installing a large picnic table in the shape of a tree on the corner of Michigan and Laurel. The idea is for the tree to be a space for people to gather and enjoy the farm and it will be surrounded by decorative and food-producing plantings," said Rob.
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Although apprehensive at first to the idea of a fixer upper, Rob spent a lot of time with Mike at 26 Woodlawn assisting with the rehab so he has a good grasp on what it takes. After several failed attempts at the In-Rem auction due to rising prices, Rob spotted this place and was hooked. "I felt really let down after the auction, but I saw this house on your blog and it seemed almost too good to be true," explained Rob. "It's right around the corner from where I live now and equidistant to my farm. I also have a friend that homesteaded a house on East Utica and my work has brought me into contact with the folks at the Foundry, who are very DIY-oriented. All of these resources, plus just the quality of Cold Springs as a neighborhood are what convinced me that the homestead program and this house specifically were right for me."
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The acquisition process began in November last year, with the official contract from the city arriving on January 21st. With a few hiccups on the city's side of the deal along the way, it took about four months from start to finish. "Regardless of the some mishaps and delays I felt like everyone I dealt with was very professional, kind, and as helpful as they could be," said Galbraith.
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At some point the home was converted to a two-family and not very well so Rob will be converting it back to a single family as part of his rehabilitation. The unsightly garage will be removed and extensive gardens will be created in the backyard, maybe even a chicken coop. The house was built between 1893 and 1899 and has several twins throughout the neighborhood. There were a handful more just like it as well, but they have been landfilled in recent years. 
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Stay tuned for some updates along the way as Rob begins to start work, his target for move in day is next summer. He pegs the total rehab cost between $20,000 and $30,000, which seems just about right for a house this size and a lot of the owner's sweat equity. Check out my ipernity album here for additional photos of the house and if you have an interest in buying a dollar house, drop me a line at mike.j.puma@gmail.com
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Apr 2, 2014

PBN to Assist Fruit Belt Residents in Identifying Important Historic Properties and the CGB to Explore Potential Historic District

Residents of the Fruit Belt are joining forces with Preservation Buffalo Niagara (PBN) to proactively address the threat to the historic fabric in the neighborhood. Volunteers and residents alike will lead a neighborhood-wide survey on May 3rd starting at 11am. Those interested in helping can meet at the Golden Cup Café at 883 Jefferson Avenue. The door-to-door survey will help evaluate the concerns of the neighbors and what historic buildings they feel are important and define their community.
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Those properties that are identified by the community as worthy of being saved will be evaluated with existing conditions from the exterior and photos to document their current state. The results will be complied by PBN and make available to the community.

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The idea of surveying the neighborhood and residents comes from vocal community members when the announcement was made that 204 High Street may be seeing the landfill. Fruit Belt community activist Veronica Hemphill-Nichols and others approached PBN seeking assistance. Terry Robinson a PBN board member and member of the Preservation Board is currently working on a individual local landmark application. However, the concerns of the community have prompted the larger issue of protecting what is important to the community beyond 204 High Street.

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“During a recent public meeting, it was evident that the community is highly concerned about its built environment and the future of the neighborhood many of them have called home for decades,” explained PBN’s new director of operations, Christina Lincoln. “It was at that meeting that we proposed a survey to compile a list of structures that are important to the story of the Fruit Belt and could serve as a starting point for future activism if those structures ever were to be threatened,” continued Tom Yots, executive director. “Many residents have volunteered to lead us through the neighborhood and were eager to tell their stories of the homes many of them grew up in.”

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The Campaign for Greater Buffalo headed by longtime preservationist Tim Tielman is also on the case. Taking a slightly different approach, the Campaign is proposing a small historic district that would include 204 High Street, the already-designated Promiseland Baptist Church, and the Schrimer Meat Market at 195 High Street. Tielman, also a member of the Preservation Board will be hosting a public meeting with the board on the matter, as early as April 9th, but further details are to follow for confirmation.

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"These are very handsome brick buildings that are survivors of a proud neighborhood, and are emblematic of the houses, churches, and markets of the Fruit Belt and a model for future development,” said Tielman. “The grocery store, on the other hand, can go anywhere. The answer to saving the Fruit Belt is not to continue the 50-year war of demolition against it and its people, but to reinforce the qualities that make it special.” The buildings mark the current western edge of the Fruit Belt. Every remnant of the former residential neighborhood on High Street from Maple to Main Street has been demolished as a consequence of the North Oak Urban Renewal Project and hospital expansion.

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195 High Street according to The Campaign is the oldest documented, continuously operating market in the city. It was built for butcher Henry Schirmer, and opened in 1876 as Schirmer’s Meat Market. In traditional fashion of the era, Henry lived upstairs and operated his business in the storefront below.
If you’re interested in assisting with the neighborhood survey be sure to sign up on the official event page on Facebook. For additional images of the Fruit Belt neighborhood, check out my album on ipernity here
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Mar 28, 2014

Previously Bound for the Landfill This East Side Dollar House Has Been Saved and Will Get Rehabbed

Well it finally happened, a house I’ve been promoting from the homestead list has been transferred from the city’s ownership to a new owner that will be giving it a full rehabilitation. I bit the bullet and after several attempts of trying to find a buyer for this double in Hamlin Park, I bought it myself.

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As you can imagine the house is an absolute wreck since it has sat vacant since at least 2007, maybe a little longer. Despite the abandonment the place has good bones, which provides me with a good starting point as the work begins. There is pretty much nothing left in the way of systems as the plumbing that was worth anything was stolen long ago.

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The house was built in 1915 and was the first home constructed on this portion of the block between Victor and Elton Place. Its architect is unknown, but the original owner and occupant was Frank Possehl. In 1924 a permit was filed for a one-story frame addition, which corresponds to the partially enclosed porch of the first floor.

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The original permit for its construction calls for a single-family home, although it is currently a two-family dwelling. It was likely converted in 1939 to its current configuration as another permit was filed that year to “alter frame dwelling.”

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Keep checking back for updates as the rehabilitation progresses and I’ll have some additional very good news on the horizon for several other dollar homes I’ve been promoting that will be getting new owners and the rehab treatment. I promised there would be some good news after my depressing dollar house post from two weeks ago.

For additional photos of the house check out this album here
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Views of Buffalo Ipernity      -     fixBuffalo     -     The Atlantic Cities     -     The Urbanophile
NTHP Blog     -     Congress for New Urbanism     -     Buffalo Historic Districts