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Historic grain elevator gets temporary reprieve from wrecking ball

"This is a public safety issue"
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Posted at 1:38 PM, Dec 20, 2021

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — The badly damaged Great Northern Grain Elevator at 250 Ganson Street in the City of Buffalo received a reprieve Sunday from demolition.

State Supreme Court Justice Dennis Ward issued a temporary restraining order. This prevents demolition from taking place until a court hearing is held Wednesday.

The city issued emergency demolition after a recent wind storm heavily damaged the grain elevator.

It is owned by ADM, a milling company, which had filed for emergency demolition, saying the damage was too extensive and “posted significant public safety concerns.”

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Damage caused by recent windstorm to the grain elevator.

But preservationists want to see the elevator, built in 1897, remain as part of the city’s waterfront history.

Tim Tielman, executive director, Campaign for Greater Buffalo and preservationist, sought the restraining order.

"And it's not going to fall. We told that to the judge," declared Tielman.

On Friday Commissioner James Comerford, Buffalo's Department of Permits & Inspections, said the building is posing a risk to the public.

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Large opening in brick wall caused by high winds.

"This is a public safety issue. I appreciate the uniqueness of the building, but it's a 125 years old and nobody knows when the next part of this wall could come down," Comerford stated.

But while the city deems it dangerous, Tielman says the steel bins inside won't topple.

"I'm telling you, this thing when it was built, the bins could withstand 17,000 of pressure per square inch," replied Tielman.

But Comerford said he's concerned about more of the wall collapsing.

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Damaged grain elevator.

"I can't predict when the next piece of this wall is going to fall down," remarked Comerford. "We've seen stress cracks on the Ganson Street side. There's an active railway that goes right underneath there and if that wall comes down, people are in danger."

Tielman tells 7 Eyewitness News developer Doug Jemal is very interested in buying the property to redevelop.

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Damage to grain elevator.

Jemal already jumped in to redevelop other historic buildings including the Buffalo Statler.

"He has a track record. He has financial resources. He is not intimidated and he definitely has a vision," Tielman explained.

I did reach out to Douglas Development but have yet to receive a response.

ADM has owned the grain elevator for nearly the past 30-years.

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Damage inside the brick wall.

On Friday, Mayor Byron Brown said he reached out to the company asking to help preserve all or parts of it but received no commitments.

Tielman says ADM has been trying to demolish it for years.

"They have wanted to demolish it from day one. That's been their agenda. They haven't been shy about it. They've made formal applications to City Hall," Tielman remarked.

We reached out to the City of Buffalo Monday for comment on the temporary court order and they issued the following statement from the city's Permits & Inspections:

"I expected that a restraining order would be filed. If Mr. Jemal or anyone else wants to buy the grain elevator, they will have to talk with ADM and probably a judge. No matter who owns it, there still exists a hazardous condition which needs to be mitigated."

James Comerford, commissioner

We also reached out to owner ADM who declined said it would not be doing interviews at this time.

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Tim Tielman, preservationist.

If you're wondering why this is the grain elevator is so historic to Buffalo, Tielman says Scientific American featured the brand new grain elevator on the cover of its magazine December 25, 1897 because Ganson Street was the first street in the world to be lighted by alternating current electricity from the Tesla Generating Station in Niagara Falls.

“And that was the first elevator on the planet to be powered by current electricity,” Tielman noted.

Tielman says the judge will hold a hearing Wednesday morning at 9:30 to hear the case.