Full Remarks: 238 Carlton

African Heritage Food Co-Op and Preservation Buffalo Niagara
Team up to Save Historic Fruit Belt Building

On Friday, May 24th, the African Heritage Food Co-Op and Preservation Buffalo Niagara announced that they have teamed up to save 238 Carlton Street from an emergency demolition order and to bring it back to life as the permanent home of the African Heritage Food Co-Op.

238 Carlton Street parallels the development of the Fruit Belt. It was built circa 1876 by Peter Knapp at the height of the building boom in the neighborhood.  Mr. Knapp was then residing with his family. who had emigrated from Germany to Buffalo in 1834, around the corner at 200 Locust Street. He built the building as a grocery store and residence, and it continued to operate as a grocery store and deli for 93 years.  238 Carlton Street is a fine example of a subset of Italianate Style architecture which finds Italianate detailing added to the simple front-gabled rectangular box popularized by the Greek Revival Style.  While this style is popular here in Buffalo, it accounts for only about 10% of surviving examples of Italianate stylings nationwide.  238 Carlton Street is accented by its cast-iron storefront columns and other character defining features such as a wide overhanging eave, original full-arched 2:2 windows, and its original unique decorative-stepped frieze with fleur running trim.

The property became vacant in approximately 2000 and the previous owner, Borderland Advantage, purchased it in 2017 just after a fire damaged the rear portion of the building.  Despite repeated assurances that the building would be repaired, stabilization work never commenced and the building was scheduled for an emergency demolition by the City of Buffalo.  Preservation Buffalo Niagara and the Fruit-Belt McCarley Gardens Housing Task Force led a successful effort to landmark the building in 2018, and the African Heritage Food Co-Op to become interested in it as a future permanent home, but could not come to terms with the owners.  Finally, in April of this year, an anonymous community member stepped forward, purchased the building, and donated it to the African Heritage Food Co-Op.  PBN will provide initial funding to the AHFC to secure and stabilize the building, and the two entities will work together to fundraise for the remaining funds to complete the vision of bringing this community-owned and community-controlled grocery store to the Fruit Belt.

“This will be an opportunity for the residents to directly benefit economically from the Fruit Belt resurgence” said Alexander Wright, Founder and General Manager of the African Heritage Food Co-Op.  “We plan to hire residents within walking distance and hopefully partner with surrounding institutions to aid in the healthy eating of their constituents. We can not do this without the help of the community and allies.” 

“Preservation Buffalo Niagara commends the African Heritage Food Co-Op for its vision in not only preserving this building, but in preserving the culture and quality of life in the Fruit Belt” said Jessie Fisher, Executive Director of Preservation Buffalo Niagara.  “We are so proud to stand with these dedicated community partners and to work alongside them on this project.”

The project will appear before the Preservation Board for approvals on May 30th, and stabilization work is expected to commence shortly thereafter.  The AHFC is actively fundraising for this effort.  To support the project and make the Co-Op a reality faster, you can donate through Facebook at AHFCBuffalo, call 716-573-1844, or email ahfcinfo@gmail.com.

For more information, please contact Tia Brown at 852-3300 or tbrown@pbnsaves.org.

– Jessie Fisher

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