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Home arrow Working with Section 106 arrow ACHP Case Digest arrow Spring 2004 arrow New York: Construction of a Federal Courthouse, Buffalo
New York: Construction of a Federal Courthouse, Buffalo

Agency: General Services Administration

Controversy surrounds the construction of a new Federal courthouse in the Niagara Square area of Buffalo, New York, where concerned citizens were not involved in the proposed project to the extent they should have been under the requirements of the Section 106 review process.

The General Services Administration has planned the courthouse as a contemporary structure. Some community members have embraced the courthouse’s contemporary design, while others feel that it is out of context with the location’s historic nature. In addition, the public and the State were not given adequate opportunity to weigh in on the building’s design and location, nor the possible demolition of the historic properties.

The General Services Administration (GSA) plans to construct a new Federal courthouse in Buffalo, New York, to address future space needs for the U.S. Courts and related agencies. The new building will also provide space for court agencies that are currently leasing space elsewhere in the city.

Rendering of the proposed Buffalo Courthouse


A rendering of the proposed courthouse (center) in Buffalo, New York. On the left is the 1931 Buffalo City Hall; on the right is the 1923 Statler Hotel. (drawing courtesy of KPF Architects)


The project would be located within the Buffalo central business district, and two structures that are eligible for the National Register of Historic Places—the 1920 Erlanger Building, and the 1850 Balcom-Chandler House—may be demolished under the courthouse construction plan.

In addition, the new courthouse would be next to the 1931 Buffalo City Hall, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and the 1923 Statler Hotel, which is eligible for the National Register. The courthouse would be constructed within the boundaries of the Joseph Ellicott Historic District, a Designated Local Preservation District and eligible for the National Register.

The community appears to be split between those who want to see the contemporary structure in downtown Buffalo and those who feel that the design is out of context with the historic district. Unfortunately, GSA’s regional office involved the public, the ACHP, and the New York State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) late in the building’s site selection and design stage, and the design review process has basically been closed to the general public.

Under the Section 106 review process, the ACHP, GSA, SHPO, City of Buffalo, and courthouse architect met in March 2004 to discuss a draft Memorandum of Agreement on the project. The ACHP says that the building’s entrance pavilion must be more compatible with the historic district.

Under the agreement, GSA and the SHPO would lead a public education program on the social and architectural history of the Joseph Ellicott Historic District. The structures that are currently on the site would be sold to the public or else documented before being demolished. GSA would train its regional staff to initiate Section 106 consultation early—and thus avoid a repeat of the Buffalo situation. Finally, the SHPO and the ACHP would be allowed to review and comment on the final designs.

The ACHP is currently reviewing the final draft of the agreement.

Staff contact: Hector Abreu Cintron

Updated June 1, 2004

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