Saving Trico & the Leadership Vacuum
by Alan Bedenko (@BuffaloPundit) - posted 7:30 am, April 2, 2012
It’s only been a few short weeks, but I’m already absolutely sick & tired of hearing about, talking about, or thinking about the decaying, unusued Trico factory. Empty now for a decade, it stands as an overgrown, brown headstone honoring the memory of industries lost to the cheap labor and lax environmental regulations of Mexico’s borderlands. Trico assembles wipers in Matamoros. Trico is dead. Oishei so loved Buffalo that they moved the wiper business – which employed people and created local wealth and economic activity – and set up a foundation.
Battle lines have been drawn, and the forces of “preservation” have selected an old building as a “must-save”, and will go to every length to prevent even the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus from demolishing and replacing the dormant Buffalo factory building. This despite the fact that BNMC is driven by innovation and knowledge, and employing people in something other than piddling service jobs or anachronistic assembly positions. This despite the fact that much of what BNMC has built in recent years has been architecturally as innovative as the work done within the buildings.
Sure, I could point out that the work that BNMC and its people do is today’s version of building wiper blades, but that doesn’t matter. Trico must be saved! I could point out that the cavernous Trico building’s design could just as easily be described as an eyesore as it can be held up as an example of a factory design that was innovative 100 years ago, but that doesn’t matter. Trico must be saved! Even hypothetically – if a company was saying it wanted to move to Buffalo and create a zillion jobs at $50,000 per year, but wanted to be downtown on a large plot of land and build something designed by Frank Gehry on the site of the mothballed Trico site, and it wouldn’t matter. Trico must be saved!
This despite the fact that Trico has been sitting there for a century, and it is so significant and historical and historically significant that there exists nothing on the books that would legally prohibit its demolition.
There is no winning in this argument. Only headaches. Buffalo’s activist class have temporarily united to combat anything but Trico’s adaptive reuse. Even Rocco Termini – whose entire business model is based on (a) being friendly with Byron Brown; and (b) using subsidies to render adaptive reuse economically feasible shamelessly says he has a dollar in his pocket to buy Trico and then save it – using government subsidies to do so.
There seems to be a belief that because Trico can be adapted and reused, it must be adapted and reused. I don’t think that’s true, but it doesn’t matter. Trico must be saved!
Usually, when populations and stakeholders have some sort of disagreement, political leaders will step in and show some leadership on the issue. Not here. Anyone know where Byron Brown stands on this controversy? With whom will he side – with jobs and innovation, or with the defenders of a “daylight factory”, which was innovative in its use of windows?
Buffalo Rising’s April Fool’s joke involved Trico “saving itself”, and flying away because the city is so mean to it. I wish it were true. I wish we could ship our unused industrial detritus elsewhere, but we can’t. We can either turn it into the “Trico lofts”, or tear it down. But a vocal and well-organized minority has decided that Trico is important and must be saved – not because it’s in any way attractive, but because of its “good bones”. Because of a leadership vacuum in City Hall and no one much caring, BNMC will be bullied into submission. There will be no peace until the state subsidizes cut-rate rental apartments, maybe offices, and vacant street-level retail space in that massive building. Or perhaps BNMC will decide to put its 21st century people in a century-old factory.
In inadvertently picking a fight over historic preservation, the BNMC – the future of Buffalo – never had a chance.