221107 2018 Main 1

Blue Cardinal Capital is the building owner of 2018 Main St. where a gaping hole in the roof has attracted the city’s attention.

The owners of an old furniture store building on Main Street and local preservationists who want to protect the building from being demolished have been granted some additional time to come up with a stabilization plan for the structure.

The city’s law department has told Niagara Village, LLC, owners of the old Hart to Hart furniture store building located at 2018 Main St., that it has until Dec. 10 to submit plans for shoring up the structure which, after years of neglect, has been deemed “unsafe” by the city’s code enforcement department.

Under the city’s modified demolition order, Niagara Village must submit engineering drawings setting forth details of all work to be done and completed applications for any associated building permits.

Niagara Village, LLC is an affiliate of the Buffalo-based investment firm Blue Cardinal Capital, which purchased the building and 37 others along the Main Street corridor as part of a $3.2 million real estate deal back in June 2019. The firm initially announced plans to restore and reactivate several of the key parcels purchased under the deal. Those plans have stalled amid financing challenges in the wake of the pandemic.

In an email obtained by the Niagara Gazette, city attorney Tom DeBoy said the city’s initial demolition order, dated Oct. 31, stemmed from the “deplorable” condition of the building’s southeast corner, which he said shares part of the three-story historic facade on Main Street’s 2000 block.

DeBoy said it appeared to the city, based on a comparison of aerial photographs of the building from 2020 with newer photographs taken this August, that the area of the building’s collapsed roof has “increased significantly” under Niagara Village’s ownership.

In addition, based on the lack of permits being pulled by Niagara Village since taking ownership, DeBoy said the city has “concluded that it has done nothing to stabilize the structure to prevent further collapse of the roof and the three floors directly below.”

According to DeBoy, representatives from Niagara Village “assured” the city last August that it was aware of the structural problems and the need for “immediate stabilization.”

DeBoy noted that John Cake, a representative of Niagara Village, in a letter to the city dated Aug. 16, indicated that the company’s private engineer, Buffalo-based Siracuse Engineers, recommended installation of temporary bracing on a portion of the south wall of the building. The bracing, Cake suggested, would render the building “stable and safe from an overall collapse.”

“We will immediately commence arrangements to install the recommended temporary bracing,” the letter noted.

In his email, DeBoy noted that during a Nov. 7 hearing conducted by the city’s Code Enforcement Director Corey Baskerville, Cake discussed financing issues with Blue Cardinal but never directly addressed his “broken promise” to stabilize 2018 Main St.

In his email, DeBoy said the city is interested in taking action at 2018 Main St. because it does not want a repeat of an incident in Buffalo where a three-story brick and mortar structure suffered a caved-in roof on July 2. The collapse of that building, located at the corner of North Oak and Genesee streets, destroyed the historic facade on the block while causing bricks to tumble onto the street and sidewalk.

DeBoy and City Administrator Anthony Restaino did not respond to emails from the Niagara Gazette seeking additional comment.

Cake also did not respond to requests for comment from the newspaper.

The furniture building at 2018 Main St. and its owners have drawn support from some members of the community and two non-profit organizations that are involved in local historic preservation efforts.

Christiana Limniatis, director of preservation services for Preservation Buffalo Niagara, a non-profit group that advocates for the protection of structures of historic significance across Western New York, said her group considers 2018 Main St. a building worth saving. She also encouraged the city to exercise patience with the building’s owners, noting that the property is supposed to be part of a larger redevelopment effort along the once-vibrant Main Street corridor.

“Niagara Falls has lost so much,” Limniatis said. “There has been so much amazing architecture that’s been lost. To lose and continue to chip away at this incredible built environment is just a tragedy for the citizens of Niagara Falls.”

She believes it would be a mistake for the city to push forward with demolition which would eliminate a building in the middle of the 2000 block of Main Street, leaving a hole in between neighboring buildings to the north and the south.

“We have example after example of how that has not been a successful plan,” she added. “If we demolish it, it will stay that way forever.”

Kevin Connors, an engineer with the Buffalo firm, eco_Logic STUDIO who works with another local non-profit organization, the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area, said he believes the facade at 2018 Main St. is salvageable.

He said he’s hopeful, by working with the city and the building’s owners, a solution can be found to preserve the building.

“My hope is that there could be some mechanism whereby the city or funds through Preservation Buffalo Niagara could help to cover costs of just stabilizing the facade,” Connors said.

Failing to do so, he argued, could represent a blow to longer-term efforts aimed at resurrecting the city’s North End.

“It was built by people from Niagara Falls,” Connors said. “If people have an opinion about what’s left in Niagara Falls from better days, I would think they’d be interested in salvaging some of that history.”

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