Demolition Logic furthers the illogical – Buffalo News

Demolition Logic furthers the illogical – Buffalo News (March 23, 2012) – Link

They admittedly screwed up. What should come next is penance, contrition and a better attitude about owning a historic building in a landmark-blessed downtown. The (wrecking) ball is on their court.

The folks running the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus can show they have changed their preservation-myopic ways.

It starts with getting behind a reuse study for the iconic-but-battered Trico complex they bought six years ago, despite not caring about what happened to most of it. “We made a mistake early on,” Matt Enstice, CEO of the Medical Campus, acknowledged last week. “There would be a better chance of saving [Trico] if we had been more proactive years ago.”

The comment came after Medical Campus honchos sparked a firestorm with talk of a Trico demolition. It’s exactly the sort of cynicism that makes litigation a growth industry around here.

If recent community blowback opened the eyes of Medical Campus executives, and some folks doubt it, then Enstice&Co. will embrace answers that don’t involve a bulldozer. A reuse study would not only tell us what shape this building on the National Register of Historic Places is in, but what can be done with it. Not doing one is like heading into the woods without a compass.

“Whatever happens, it needs to be an informed decision,” said Tom Yots of Preservation Buffalo Niagara. “With a study, you get scenarios as to how the building can—or can’t—be reused. That makes it easier to market to developers.”

It is not just cornerstone-huggers who see a study as a starting point. Paul Ciminelli was co-developer of the Trico site until 2005, when the death of partner Steve McGarvey ended their plans.

“You need to get an objective assessment of the building,” Ciminelli told me. “You need it not just from a structural standpoint. You need it from a market feasibility standpoint, to see what makes sense for reuse.

“Maybe it turns out you have to demo the most inefficient part of the [complex] and keep the rest. But at least you’ll know what you’re looking at.”

Medical Campus executives have been driving blind on the Trico complex since they bought it. A study will wipe the windshield on the old windshield wiper factory. These things work. The 1811 Williamsville Water Mill languished for years. A reuse study laid out the possibilities that led to Iskalo’s $8 million redevelopment.

Given the complicity of Medical Campus executives in the iconic site’s demise, they should jump at the chance for a happier ending. Instead, Enstice thinks a study should be done not by the Medical Campus, with a hand from preservationists, but by an interested developer.

For lack of a better term, I call it Demolition Logic. The point of a study is largely to prompt developer interest. No study, no interested developer. No interested developer, send in the bulldozers. It’s no way to show you really care.

Two years ago, the Medical Campus built its Innovation Center on part of the Trico complex. Its current plan calls for demolishing part of the complex for another Innovation Center building. That would leave for redevelopment the section of Trico along Goodell Street.

It’s not the perfect solution. But, if all else fails, I think it’s something that most people could live with. Developer Doug Swift said that it would be easier to redevelop a pared-down Trico than the current mammoth complex.

“It changes the dynamics of developing that main [Trico] building,” said Swift, who is on the board of Preservation Buffalo Niagara. Which doesn’t mean that the whole building can’t be saved. We will not know what to do, until we know what is doable.

For years, Medical Campus executives closed their eyes to the problem. It’s time they opened their minds.

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