‘We’ve been fighting to save this building for 15 years’: Buffalo preservationist speaks out on Cobblestone District fire

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — A local preservationist spoke out about the frustration associated with Tuesday night’s fire in the Cobblestone District.

Paul McDonnell is the current president of the Campaign for Greater Buffalo, History, Architecture and Culture, an organization that helps preserve and maintain Buffalo’s historic buildings.

McDonnell said he was quite disappointed while standing outside of the wreckage.

“We’ve been fighting to save this building for 15 or so years and to see it neglected and then finally go up in flames is very frustrating to us,” McDonnell said. “This owner should’ve been held accountable a long time ago.”

As for the history of the building, most of it was a Blacksmith Shop. McDonnell said a lot of the buildings served the shipping industry. It’s also the only pre-Civil War era building left on the waterfront.

“That is one of the things that makes it so special,” McDonnell said. “And the fact that it is in the middle of a historic district, the Cobblestone District.”

Darryl Carr has owned the buildings for 13 years. Carr told News 4 he purchased the buildings “demolition ready” and that he planned to develop something new. He wanted to build a tower that he said everyone would prosper from.

“My project would bring as many people here as the arena does,” Carr said. “You’re going to have people coming to western New York just to see a new iconic tower that puts Buffalo on the map.”

Carr has been fighting the city in an eminent domain case. He wants to redevelop the space while the city wants to save it. McDonnell said that Carr neglected to take good care of the properties.

“Ever since the owner has had this building, he really has neglected to maintain it. It’s a relatively simple building,” McDonnell said. “He’s allowed it to continue to deteriorate.”

McDonnell also expressed frustration with the housing court, saying they have not seemed to have the wherewithal to hold Carr accountable.

“He has some sort of scheme proposing to build about a 45-story condominium building. No developer has even thought of doing anything like that in Buffalo,” McDonnell said. “Our concern is that this building will be torn down and become a parking lot.”

McDonnell believes that the buildings are not a total loss. He expressed what he would like to see in the future.

“We feel with selective demolition, saving some of the existing brick, and then stabilizing the building, we can mitigate any health and safety problems and then get it out of his hands like the city’s been attempting to do through eminent domain,” McDonnell said. “The main thing is now to save the building.”

The city said a decision on the eminent domain case is expected to come down soon.

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