By Jill Terreri
Today is a big day for Savarino Cos. and its plans to spent $18 million to build 78 apartments on the site of the Erie Freight House, a city landmark on the Buffalo River.
The Preservation Board is holding a public hearing at 5:30 p.m. in Room 901 on the company's request to deconstruct the freight house, at 441 Ohio St. Following the hearing, a vote by the board is possible. If there isn't a vote tonight, the board will vote at its meeting next week.
Preservation Board Chairman Paul McDonnell said this morning that he's not sure how he will vote.
"Our issue is it's so hard to get landmark buildings," McDonnell said, adding that he is interested to hear about Savarino's plan to "mitigate the loss of historic fabric."
UPDATE: In a voicemail message this afternoon, Board Member Tim Tielman said he will not vote to allow the demolition to proceed, and hopes his fellow board members will follow suit. He said the Campaign for Greater Buffalo History, Architecture and Culture, of which he is executive director, is urging the board to deny the request.
During prior conversations in Preservation Board meetings, members said they were concerned that the city had already designated the building a landmark, and that the Erie Freight House, built in 1868, is the last of its kind in the city.
McDonnell said the building is an important piece of the city's cultural history, though much of the architectural elements have been compromised.
Savarino CEO Sam Savarino, and even some in the preservation community, have said that the building is too far damaged to be salvaged. (It has been condemned by the city.)
Savarino has said he will save whatever parts of the building that can be saved, and use the materials in another location.
If the Preservation Board denies Savarino's request today (or next week), he can appeal to the Common Council.
Savarino's plans for Buffalo River Lofts were approved by the city Planning Board, and have support from Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper.