“Save Our Sacred Sites” Initiative

According to Bernice Radle, Executive Director at Preservation Buffalo Niagara (PBN), preservation in Buffalo is in a state of crisis now that the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo is unloading their churches. Radle says that there is an urgency like never before, to figure out ways to protect the churches, which have been the backbone of Buffalo’s neighborhoods for generations. That’s why there is now a concerted effort being made to apply for local landmark status for each at-risk church. An approved landmark status can:

Open the doors for developers for adaptive reuse projects with the help of tax credits (40% of the cost of the project)

Allow operating churches to apply for funds for sacred places

Just this morning, Buffalo Common Council Member Mitch Nowakowski joined Preservation Buffalo Niagara (PBN) to announce the launch of the “Save Our Sacred Sites” initiative – aimed at protecting at-risk churches in Buffalo that are being closed by the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo. The announcement was made outside Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church (115 O’connell Avenue).

The Catholic Diocese of Buffalo has announced 15 churches throughout the area will close down or merge, with moore announcements to come.

Unfortunately, while the plan of applying for local landmark status is a great start, there are currently insufficient funds needed to apply for each of the churches. Not only does the City require $500 per church application, it would take around two weeks of PBN research (per church), which means that we’re talking about a few thousand dollars to get the ball rolling (each church application requires at least a $2,500 commitment). That’s why PBN has come up with a solution that they believe could help jumpstart the initiative. Seeing that there are 14 at-risk churches without local landmark status, PBN has set up a Save Our Sacred Sites Initiative, where people can donate to the church that they feel most connected to. Maybe it’s a church that they attended when they were young? Or maybe it’s located in their neighborhood? Or maybe they feel that it is most architecturally significant?

“Churches are not just places of worship; they are symbols of our community’s history,” said Radle. “The architectural beauty and spiritual significance of these sacred sites are irreplaceable, and if locally landmarked and added to the National Register of Historic Places, they will have an opportunity to play a significant role in our future, too.”

Why does local landmark status matter?

Ensures Oversight: The preservation board must review any significant changes to the building.

Offers Tax Incentives: Future owners can benefit from tax incentives, making preservation more feasible.

Enables Further Funding: Opens doors to additional grants and historic preservation tax credits. You can read about them here. 

“We need donations to get this to work,” added Radyl. “It’s a real mess, and we’re running out of time. The Catholic Diocese of Buffalo is of the mindset that they must close the churches and sell them. There’s the cost of applying, and then there’s the extended timeline including the including the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) Determination of Eligibility (DOE) timing*. The Diocese is moving too quickly. These churches are very vulnerable at the moment, and the time is now to be proactive.”

*Determination of Eligibility (DOE) Submission: Applying to the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) so these churches can potentially access historic preservation tax credits, and other preservation grants in the future. Each local landmark application that is submitted will also get a DOE submittal if needed. Your donation will cover this step.


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