It was back in 1994 and I was a new reporter here at Channel 2. My assignment was to interview Fillmore District Councilman David Franczyk about the East Side's iconic Central Terminal. My photographer and I met him there and did a walk-through.
The building was sitting wide open and it had already been stripped of its precious Art Deco fixtures by its former owner. The Councilman was lamenting how the terminal was abandoned, neglected and falling into greater disrepair with every passing day.
He was trying to convince city lawmakers to pony up the money to at least secure the building by boarding up the doors and making an attempt to keep out vandals and intruding weather. His pleas went unanswered.
During my next visit just four short years later, I was shocked to see how the terminal had gone from bad to worse. Scavengers had done more damage pulling marble tile off the walls and prying copper flashing from the overhangs; anything and everything that could be stripped and sold for scrap was gone. To add insult to injury, spray paint "artists" left their mark on the grand lady, too.
It made me want to cry.
Fast forward 15 years later, April 18, 2013, and I am standing in the middle of the main concourse of the Central Terminal again. Today Scott Levin and I are meeting with our prodigiously talented Channel Two Creative Team to shoot some video tape for an upcoming TV spot. We were greeted by Marilyn Rodgers who is the current Executive Director of the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation. She leads a dedicated, forward-thinking and creative brain trust of Buffalo-loving preservationists.
They've already done yeoman's work tending to the Central Terminal's most immediate repair needs and are slowing reclaiming the landmark's dignity. They've restored the outside tower clock, researched the whereabouts of the iconic concourse clock and returned it to its rightful home (plus fundraising the dollars to meet the hefty price tag) and procured a replica Buffalo to stand proudly in place of the original. * Among numerous other repair and restoration projects, work is also underway at this writing to replace the stadium-sized roof with solar capabilities-an expensive project that is being realized by donated labor and discounted supplies.
But just as important as restoring the physical structure, the CTRC is also crafting a vision for its rebirth. It's a tall order; without question the tallest order of any preservation project this side of the Rockies. And ironically, that's where this group is drawing their inspiration. They've developed an adaptive Reuse Plan based on a model in Colorado that provided an 11:1 economic development return for the community.
Plans are to turn the Central Terminal into a Center for Restoration Arts and Sciences. Several organizations and individuals have already expressed a desire to serve as partner-developers and anchor tenants utilizing a public/private development concept. Work is well underway on a plan and they're expecting to share it with the community before the summer's end.
The great lady seems to be in good hands. Take a look around the concourse and you can see it. You can feel it: the "never say die" attitude that is pure Buffalo, mixed with the limitless creativity of an arts community that sees opportunity where others see pitted concrete and rusted steel. And I thank God for that.
This is home.