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HDC News 2011

Updates - 2011

March 2011
By Joe Kocsis - President WNYRHS Inc.

         The museum project has taken a giant step forward this past month as the NYSDEC issued the Certificate of Completion certifying that the environmental cleanup on Area C has been completed. This was four months earlier than we had expected, and we have been advised that the Certificate of Completion on the 16-acre Area E will be issued in March. With the issuance of these COC's, we have signed the final agreements to acquire control of these properties.

         Several original structures were preserved on Area C including the former Power House, Ice House and Machine Shop Buildings. Over the next 3-4 months, the Society will be fully evaluating the buildings as all of the interior demolition has now been completed. Our evaluation will ascertain the current condition of the buildings, develop the scope of work, and place some hard cost estimates on the rehabilitation.

         As for Area E, this 16-acre parcel along Elk Street has been cleared of all buildings with the exception of four large concrete slabs. Our plans are to construct our first building on one of the 18,000 square foot foundations later this summer. The building will be used for restoration of our railroad equipment. We are currently gathering cost estimates for this structure. A special Thank You goes out to Jon Williams, President of Ontario Specialty Contractors, for his support and vision for our development of this reclaimed brown field. Jon also surprised us with his generous donation of a 30'x80' metal building to the project. This building will be erected on Area E and will be used as an equipment and machine shop.

         Fundraising is now our main focus. The Society received a generous gift this past December with a $50,000 donation towards the museum project made by Donald and Barbara Owens. Don has served as a Trustee for several years and Barb has been active handling publicity and media contacts for the Society. Don & Barb also donated the Lehigh Valley caboose that the Society moved to Williamsville last year and we cannot thank them enough for this generous gift.

         Don and Barb have also issued a challenge to the Society with an offer to donate an additional $50,000 towards the museum project if we can match it through additional fundraising efforts. So we are appealing to our entire membership and all of our friends to help us reach this goal to secure this additional funding. Remember, the WNYRHS is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization and donations are tax-deductible.

May 2011
By Joe Kocsis - President WNYRHS Inc.

         You've read a great deal about the museum project over the past few months and have heard about Area E or C, but you're still a little confused about what just where everything is located. So using the map as a reference, I'll walk you through the site and briefly describe the plans for each parcel. The site is located in South Buffalo along the Buffalo River. It is roughly bounded by Elk Street, Orlando Street, South Park Ave and the CSX/NS railroad mainline tracks.

         The property that the Society will be acquiring totals approximately 35-acres and was the site of the former Buffalo Color Corp. The company, once one of the world's largest producers of food and clothing dyes, went bankrupt in 2003. The plant was closed and abandoned. In 2009, Honeywell International stepped forward and voluntarily agreed to remediate the property and the New York State department of Environmental Conservation designated the property as an official Brown Filed Opportunity Area making it eligible for tax credits to aid in the cleanup.

          The site is divided into four major areas as indicated on the aerial view. The Society will be acquiring each of the separate areas as the environmental remediation is completed and certified by the NYSDEC. Area E and Area C marked on the aerial view are on schedule to be completed by March 2011 and the Society will take over those properties at that time.

          On Area E, we negotiated with the Honeywell, South Buffalo Development and the City of Buffalo to leave the four large concrete foundations from the old food dye buildings in place so we could adapt them for use in construction of our car shop and equipment storage buildings. Preserving these foundations will save hundreds of thousands of dollars in construction costs down the road. Our initial plans for Area E call for re-connecting the rail sidings leading into the property at the Lee Street crossing and constructing several sidings within the fenced in 16-acre parcel. We want to begin construction of at least one 18,000 SF building on the site later this summer as funding is secured. Once tracks are ready, we'll begin moving over equipment to the site over the next year or so.

          Area C is located at the corner of Elk and Lee Street. We have initially saved three large structures from demolition for re-use as the main museum display buildings. These buildings, totaling over 125,000 SF, include the former Power House, Ice House and Engineering offices. They are all brick buildings built in 1917 by National Aniline. They have been cleaned of all environmental contaminants and equipment. We are currently developing the cost estimates for the work to seal up the buildings from the weather which will be completed under an agreement with South Buffalo Development, the current property owners, before the buildings are turned over to the Society later this year. Under the terms of our agreements, the Society will be buying the buildings and leasing the land for a 99-year term to limit any liability associated with the environmental cleanup.

         Areas A&B are located along South Park Avenue and the Buffalo River. Demolition work will be completed later this summer and the extensive environmental cleanup is expected to be completed by April 2012. There are five buildings that will be preserved for our use on these areas and we are working with South Buffalo Development and Honeywell to develop the use of this property. Public access to the Buffalo River is an important aspect of Area A and we are still developing the final plans for the site use which will include public parking, boat access to the river, ground displays of railroad and industrial equipment, and perhaps a replica railroad village with vintage railroad building replicas.

          The parcels marked as Phase I on the map are properties that once were part of the Buffalo Color plant, but were acquired by a third party. We are currently negotiating with the owners to purchase these five additional acres of land for the museum project and we expect to conclude the deal to purchase these two parcels within the next 30 days or so. The parcel contains a 22,000 SF, 2-Story office building at 100 Lee Street, a 4,000 SF former plant medical building, and 3 acres of paved parking lots. The building was built in 1985 and our plans are to develop the building as the main offices of the Heritage Discovery Center.

          The building will also serve two additional purposes. First, it will provide space to develop temporary museum displays, meeting rooms and a gift shop on the first floor. This will get the museum up and running as we take the time to rehabilitate the Area C buildings for the permanent museum. There is a 3,000 SF addition to the office building that will be able to be converted into a state-of-the-art archive center, providing important environmental controls for the storage and care of our historic artifacts and documents.

          Secondly, the upper floor will be made available to other non-profit groups seeking to become part of the overall experience offered by the Heritage Discovery Center. We will offer these groups meeting spaces for small board meeting to large public gathering of 100 or more people. We will also share important resources such as telephones, digital copy equipment and internet services, allowing the Society and these other non-profits the opportunity to better utilize our funding, especially in light of the reality of reduce funding for the cultural.

          We have already made an agreement with the Steel Plant Museum to come onboard to relocate and expand their museum displays. We been contacted by several other organizations that want to join in the project and we'll finalize these agreements once the property purchase is finalized.

          Once we have control of the 100 Lee Street Building, we'll move into the building immediately. The building is in good condition, but needs a thorough cleaning and fresh paint. We'll certainly need lots of volunteers at that point as we want to get the temporary displays and meeting rooms established as soon as possible. We will need to install some security doors, change locks, and acquire some office furniture. We are looking for donations of paint, equipment, chairs, display cases, etc... almost anything you can think of, we'll probably need to acquire it to get the building functional. We also will be asking for donations of contractor services, such as plumbing and electric work as we need to remodel the existing bathrooms as well. If you know of someone that can help out, just have them call Joe Kocsis at 863-2957.

         The final and most important item is funding the major components of the project. To that end, the Society has formed a for-profit development corporation to take advantage of the tax credits associated with the Brown Field and historic buildings rehabilitation. These credits provide a minimum of 20% (and in certain aspects up to 60%) in refundable tax credits for every dollar spent building the museum property over the next ten years. We are working with our lawyer to develop the funding prospectus that we will be sending to private investors seeking tax saving investments. There is much, much more to the project that would take another 50 pages to outline for you. The bottom-line is after 30 years, we finally have a permanent home for the collection.

June 2011
By Joe Kocsis - President WNYRHS Inc.

         Friday June 17th, 2011 was a milestone in the history of the Society as we closed on the purchase of the former Buffalo Color Administration building located at 100 Lee Street. Along with the purchase of the 22,000 SF office building, comes 5 acres of land and a smaller 4,500 SF brick building. The 100 Lee Street Building now becomes the core of the museum site which we have designated as the Heritage Discovery Center.

         The office building will house the administrative functions of the Heritage Discovery Center and spaces on the first floor will be converted into meeting and temporary display rooms. There is a great deal of painting and cleaning required to freshen up the building interior, plus sprucing up the exterior landscaping as well. If you want to help out just give me a call @ 863-2957 to find out when the next work session is planned. We plan on being at the site to oversee the work on a daily basis, so all you retired guys out there, here's a great weekday or week night project.

         The acquisition of the building was made possible through the auspices of HSBC Bank and their offer of a great secured loan package that includes some very generous repayment terms to help us get established in the building. The loan was made possible through the generous intervention of Don and Barbara Owens, whose 34-year banking relationship with the bank convinced them that this was a great and worthwhile project and HSBC Bank needed to be a part of, and they agreed.

         We currently have one tenant in the building and their rent will help defray the monthly operational costs of the building. We have also received a commitment from the Steel Plant Museum to relocate their museum displays from Lackawanna to the site. They are eager to begin work on their spaces in the building. Now that we control the building, we are approaching several other groups to relocate to the building as well.

         Now the real work begins. Along with owning the 100 Lee Street Building, we have also taken control of the 16-acre Area E parcel and we are looking to begin planning for the construction of our long-awaited car shop building. However, everything will be contingent on our ability to raise the necessary funds to reach our goal.

August 2011
By Joe Kocsis - President WNYRHS Inc.

         As the summer of 2011 draws to a close we accomplished a tremendous amount of work on the Administration Building during the hot sticky months of July and August. Since the closing in June, we've been busy cleaning, remodeling and painting the spaces in the building. On the first floor, the Steel Plant Museum has been busy readying their space and is planning to begin moving in their displays by the end of August. We've painted the temporary display spaces and stripped and cleaned the tile floors. We also received a generous donation from Buffalo Museum of Science of several surplus display cases and we will begin preparing the displays.

         We are also in the process of preparing the new meeting room on the first floor. Two interior offices have been demolished to open up the space and hopefully the room will be painted by the time we host the membership meeting in September. On the second floor, a conference room has been set up to accommodate our board meeting and for use by the other groups that will be moving into the Lee Street building. We are also setting up the office space for the Society on the second floor as well.

         I want to thank all of the members that have volunteered to help out at the new museum site. Besides all of the work on the building interior, there has been extensive work outside getting the landscaping in shape, cutting grass, and painting the chain link fence. I also want to thank Caryl Youngers for arranging the donation of valuable building materials from Goya Foods in Angola. Many hours were spent stripping out a small office building of doors, electrical fixtures, ceiling tiles, fluorescent lights, and HVAC equipment. All of these items will be put to good use at the new building, saving thousands of dollars as well. Below is a list of those accomplishments.

 1. Our Display area received its first coat of paint.
 2. A 15 foot section of the Meeting Room was removed with 35 more feet to go.
 3. Old cubicle support bolts in the Lobby Floor were removed.
 4. A lot og grass was cut on the grounds.
 5. Blinds on the second floor were washed and rehung.
 6. Carl Ambuske donated a Vaccum Cleaner.
 7. Floors were scrubbed in our display area and the Steel Plant Museum area.
 8. In the Meeting Rooms, old cubicles were torn out and placed in a dumpster.
 9. 20 feet of brush was cut along the Lee Street fence.
10. Two officers from the Lower Lakes Marine Historical Society toured the building.
11. Ron Dukarm donated three picnic tables that will be placed in the shade.
12. The last of the old cubicles were removed from the building.
13. Our first Public Meeting has been scheduled for September 15th in our new Meeting Room.

November 2011
By Joe Kocsis - President WNYRHS Inc.

         Fall moved into Western New York with quite a bit of rain but it didn't stop the progress at the Heritage DiscoveRY Center. During the week and on weekends, between 10 to 15 Society Volunteer's showed up to lend a hand.

         The pressure is on to get the Museum ready for our first "Open House," Saturday November 12th, 2011. The process of cleaning, remodeling and painting the spaces in the building is moving forward. The Buffalo Museum of Science donated many unused display cases which will be put to good use and we thank them for their generosity!

         On September 12th, we held our first Public Meeting in our "own" meeting room! Two Trustees meeting have been held here also. Through other generous donors, we now have desks, filing cabinets and shelving for all the business at hand.

          Below are some of the highlights from the previous month's efforts.

 1. We completed the back hallway by painted it to our standard color - glacier mist.
 2. In the display area, we added blackboards to the display cabinets and re-painted the black on the bases.
 3. Repairs and new ceiling fittings were prepared where we had to go into the ceiling with our tall display cases.
 4. Plans were laded out for new wall displays.
 5. Our new exterior building sign is under construction and should be up in the next two weeks.
 6. A truckload of filing cabinets arrived and we unloaded them into the Archive Area.
 7. Inside we got two coats of paint on the first floor hallways.
 8. We also had repairs made to the tile floor in the meeting room.
 9. The Nickel Plate Historical Society will take up residence in our building.
     and NKP members set up a display case of Nickel Plate items.
10. An Internet system has been set up in the building and we now have internet access.
11. We hope to have the phone system working soon, most of the infarstructure is installed.

"Don Owens Center" Dedication
By Greg Jandura - WNYRHS Historian

         Dedication of the Don Owens Center building at 100 Lee Street on the Heritage DiscoveRY Center site took place on November 10, 2011, just four months after the Western New York Railway Historical Society took possession of the building. In addition to Society officers, trustees and members,, present at the dedication were Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, DEC Regional Director Abby Snyder, Steel Plant Museum President Jim Carey and a number of other local officials and guests.

         The Don Owens Center was opened to the public on November 12th, 2011 and again for the Society's Train and Toy Show in Hamburg on November 19th and 20th. Currently, the building serves as the site for WNYRHS Trustee and General Membership meetings. The Center is now open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, as well as one evening during the week. The Steel Plant Museum, relocated from Lackawanna Public Library, also opened its displays on November 12th. The DiscoveRY Center also welcomed the Buffalo Lighthouse Association and their artifacts of WNY Maritime history.

         Under the guidance of Ed Patton, Director for Museum Development for the Western New York Railway Historical Society, more than 30 Society members helped prepare the site for the dedication, and they and others served as tour guides and parking assistants during the dedication ceremony.

         The purchase of the building was made possible through the very generous support of Don Owens, a principal in Earth Dimensions of East Aurora. "We are extremely grateful to South Buffalo Development, the New York State DEC and Honeywell for working together to remediate this site which will help us to preserve and display important works of Buffalo's industrial heritage and architecture" said Joe Kocsis, President of the WNYRHS at the dedication ceremony.

         "We are confident that the Heritage DiscoveRY Center will become a cultural attraction that will make our region proud of its industrial heritage and the significant impact it has had on our community." At one time, the railroads were the largest private employer in the Buffalo region.

         These are just a few of the display cases that cover the 25,000 sqft of the Exhibit Hall with more to come. The Center is open from 10am - 5pm every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

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