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Trico Addenda

Here are a few items that didn’t fit into this week’s print story on the Trico building:

1. Some eyebrows have been raised over the fact that in January 2010, Ontario Specialty Contracting, one of the region’s biggest demolition firms, formed a limited liability corporation called 791Washington Street, LLC—which happens to be an address associated with Trico Plant #1. Does OSC have some ownership stake, currently or in the future, in that property?

Not exactly. Here’s how that works: Let’s assume that the Buffalo Brownfield Restoration Corporation, on behalf of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, had succeeded in procuring a demolition permit in 2010. The contract would have gone to OSC. (How that happens without a bidding process, I don’t know, but this is Buffalo. Even if a bidding process had been required—and even if one is required for the demolition BNMC is talking about now—I think it’s a safe bet that OSC will get the job.) Before demolition began, title to the property would be temporarily transferred to 791 Washington Street, LLC, in order to protect BBRC and BMC from any liability during the demolition work. When the demolition was finished, BNMC would buy back the property for the cost of the demolition work.

It’s not an unusual practice. Only the presumption that OSC would get the contract to demolish a building owned by a public agency without a bidding process is unusual. But again, hey, this is Buffalo. We called John Williams, president of OSC, to ask him about this, but he didn’t return the call.

2. In case you’re wondering how much it would cost to seal up the roof of the Trico building, something none of its owners have seen fit to do since 40 to 50 percent of it was removed back in 2001: We asked a guy in the commercial roofing business last week, and he guessed the most it would cost was $10 per square foot, and probably $4-$6 per square foot if the goal was simply to mothball the structure. If the roof is 100,000 square feet—that’s a guess, based on the building being six stories and 580,000 square feet—and half of the membrane is gone, then the least it would cost is $200,000 (half the roof at $4) and the most is $1 million (the whole roof at $10). From preservationists I’ve heard a much smaller number, and maybe it’s justified, but having talked to some folks who have walked on that roof and seen the damage wrought by 12 years of neglect, I think it’s prudent to look at the higher numbers.

3. One argument against the reuse of the building is that the center of the building is too far removed from the windows; no tenant wants to rent space in the center of a bunker. But, as Nichols Miller writes here, a light well in the center of the structure could solve that.

4. As noted in the story, the proposal BNMC is likely to bring forth will include the possibility of keeping the part of the building that runs along Goodell street between Ellicott and Washington, in order to preserve the iconic parapet and maintain the integrity of the urban fabric at this automotive gateway into the city. (Read: not a parking lot or any other setback use.) It’s important to emphasize that BNMC is not interested in developing that building. They’re willing to spare it the wrecking ball if a developer can be found for it.

It’s also worth noting this: I was told—and, having reviewed some studies of the building, I believe—that some of the complex’s worst environmental and structural issues, such as they are, exist in that structure. That’s not to say those issues couldn’t be resolved; it’s just context in a discussion where environmental and structural issues are being cited as a reason not to preserve the complex.


More soon.