BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Preservationists have been working tirelessly with the Walden-Bailey neighborhood for years to clean up and preserve the old vacant Wildroot building on Bailey Avenue, but this week, they were dealt an unsettling blow.
The East Side landmark was sold at Buffalo’s annual tax foreclosure auction to a local businessman whose plans for the iconic property might be at odds with the neighborhood’s aspirations.
The building itself has stood along Bailey Avenue for nearly 90 years, and actually started out as the world’s largest bakery and was eventually converted to the world’s largest hair tonic factory a few years later, turning out Wildroot hair products whose name was recognized around the world.
Preservationists are determined to keep the building intact so that a developer can improve the property, with the help of historic tax credits, according to Mark Paradowski of the Buffalo Young Preservationists.
Paradowski said those credits are made possible by entry into the National Register of Historic Places, and Wildroot, “is National Register-eligible.”
Wildroot’s parent company, Colgate-Palmolive shut the plant down in 1962, and while other companies have used the building and left, the iconic name has remained.
The building went on the auction block Thursday at the city’s tax foreclosure sale, and even though Buffalo is considered a “hot real estate market”, pushing many tax foreclosed properties to new heights—even vacant lots were going for as much as $5,000—the Wildroot property only sold for $1,000.
Paradowski was stunned, “I think we were all shocked that it would pop up for the lowest money that it ever has,” as he referenced Wildroot’s listing in the city’s last three tax foreclosure sales.
Chrissy Lincoln, another Buffalo Young Preservationist, said $1,000 for a 100,000 sq. ft. building, is beyond shocking for her, “We have spent countless weekends trying to secure the building, painting over graffiti, cutting grass–just doing simple maintenance things that make it look so much better than it did before.”
Paradowski said he spoke briefly with the businessman who won the bid for Wildroot, and when he inquired about future plans, the new owner mentioned storage and a partial demolition, which Lincoln said would jeopardize the historic tax credits.
Common Council member Richard Fontana whose Lovejoy District encompasses the Wildroot property, said the city has invested thousands of dollars protecting and repairing the building, and would like to hear the new owner’s plans, himself.
“Fix the building up, use it for something, create some jobs here on the far east side of the City of Buffalo, and I think we could have something positive. But if he is just going to buy it, throw some junk in there, and do nothing–not even cut the grass–that is not something I am looking forward to having.”
Fontana plans to invite the new owner to meet with the Common Council next week, to share his plans for developing the iconic Wildroot building.