BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Congressman Brian Higgins is calling on local officials to save Buffalo’s historic Great Northern Grain Elevator after it was heavily damaged two weeks ago.

The fate of the longtime waterfront landmark could be decided by a state judge Monday.

The grain elevator’s owner, Chicago-based Archer Daniels Midland asked for permission to demolish the 19th-century building, and city inspectors granted the company’s request. But preservationists blocked the demolition in court, and Higgins says, this is all about the legacy of Buffalo architecture.

“And we have an appreciation for the importance of historic preservation,” Higgins said.

Congressman Brian Higgins cites Buffalo’s history as a hub for world-class architecture and the need to preserve it, especially the Great Northern grain elevator, believed to be the only existing building of its kind in America.

“So you have developers stepping up, you have not-for-profits stepping up, you have the political community stepping up. If one community can save a historic building like that, it is Buffalo,” added Higgins.

Nearly two weeks ago a punishing windstorm slammed the grain elevator leaving this gaping hole in the north wall. Owner ADM cited the damage as a threat to public safety, and city inspectors agreed.

“We’ve seen stress cracks on the Ganson Street side, there is railway, an active railway, that goes right underneath there, and if that wall comes down people are in danger,” said Commissioner James Comerford, Permits and Inspections.

Here’s a look at the before and after:

Before image: Map data ©2021 Google

But Higgins contends the owners allowed the elevator to deteriorate and made an effort to tear it down twice. Higgins said ADM should not be let off the hook.

“They left that vacant, it is their responsibility, and they should be held responsible for the restoration of that historic building,” Higgins said.

Now that developer Douglas Jemal has shown an interest in buying the 19th-century elevator and restoring it, Higgins says historic tax credits are available, but…

“I don’t see him very often asking for a handout. So a guy like that him ‘street cred,’ in terms of the restoration of a building, and he should be listened to,” added Higgins.

Higgins adds, Western New York is stepping up to oppose ADM’s demolition plans, preservationists, organized labor and neighborhood leaders want to keep the city landmark.

The lawsuit goes back to court Monday, which could lead to preservation or demolition.

Al Vaughters is an award-winning investigative reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 1994. See more of his work here. To submit a Call 4 Action, click here.

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