Monday, June 13, 2011

A Modern Ruin

Last weekend, I traveled up to Buffalo to tour Buffalo Central Terminal.

Deco Tower

This beautiful Art Deco landmark has been abandoned since 1979, and the 1990s were especially hard on her. But locals have been working to restore the Terminal, and give tours a few times each year.


It's great that the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation has managed to preserve the station for future generations, but the plight of the terminal symbolizes a difficult issue with respect to preservation. Repurposing a building like this is never easy, and it's especially challenging in a city like Buffalo, where the problems of the Rust Belt are acute and widespread.

Great Hall

The Terminal was built at a time when Buffalo was one of the largest cities in the United States, and a major rail hub. Today, the city has no shortage of office space, and the neighborhood around the station is blighted with abandoned structures and vacant lots. Only a few Amtrak trains call at Buffalo's two stations.

Union News

It will not be easy to convert this space into something else. Train traffic alone doesn't generate enough of a need to reopen the space. Cincinnati has had great success in converting their old station into a museum center. Other potential uses include condos or offices, but as yet, there's been no catalyst to spark a change.


Some believe that the proposed New York high-speed rail program could be the thing that restarts Central Terminal. But I fear that doesn't make too much sense, either. Central Terminal is not located downtown, nor is it in the best neighborhood. Perhaps linking the Terminal to downtown with light rail would make the old structure more viable, but I think it's still a long shot.

I hope that Buffalo is able to reuse the building somehow. It would be a shame to let this magnificent structure go to waste. But it's clear that the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation has a hard row to hoe.