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The future of Paul Rudolph designed Shoreline Apartments in Buffalo

February 25, 2014

In 1974, the 426-unit Shoreline Apartments were completed at the edge of downtown Buffalo, NY. Unlike much of the low-income housing being built at the time, which was predominately high-rise towers, Paul Rudolph designed a complex of almost garden apartment-like semi-detached buildings sited in broad S-curves on a generous site. The Shoreline Apartments applied Rudolph’s spatial complexity to low-rise, high-density housing. Projecting and recessed balconies; long, low shed roofs; and hammered ribbed concrete exteriors give the complex Rudolph authenticity. Originally known as “Waterfront Shoreline Houses” the project was among many architecturally ambitious projects across the state commissioned by the New York State Urban Development Corporation under the leadership of Ed Logue.

Now at the 40-year mark, the buildings and the apartments inside run the gamut of conditions. Some have been vacant and warehoused for years, many are in disrepair and yet others have been renovated and upgraded. Norstar Development purchased the Shoreline Apartments in 2005 and reportedly spent $19 million in repairs and updating. However in November 2013 Norstar applied for demolition permits for five buildings along the northern border. It plans to replace the five with eight new townhouse-style buildings containing 48 units of affordable housing. Norstar is also seeking funding from the NYS Department of Housing and Community Development and annual low-income housing tax credits for the project. Billed as Phase I, Norstar has expressed its intent to further the redevelopment as funding is made available.

Interest in preserving the Shoreline Apartments is growing both locally and within the Rudolph-aligned architectural community. Local preservation organizations are gearing up to bring the discussion to the wider Buffalo community. On February 27, Preservation Buffalo Niagara, the Preservation League of New York State, Mid-Century Modern Buffalo and the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library are sponsoring a community forum titled “The Shoreline Apartments: Understanding Modernism’s Role in Western New York’s Architectural Legacy.” The forum will look at the origins of Modern architecture, common misconceptions and the significance of Buffalo’s Modern landmarks. Rudolph’s Shoreline Apartments will be the specific focus of the event. Some of the region’s leading voices in preservation, architecture and planning will discuss the current status of the Shoreline Apartments followed by an opportunity for the public to become part of the discussion.

The Shoreline Apartments: Understanding Modernism’s Role in Western New York’s Architectural Legacy
Thursday, February 27, 5:30pm – 7:30pm
Downtown Buffalo Central Library

Speakers include:
• Tom Yots, Executive Director of Preservation Buffalo Niagara
• Barbara Campagna, FAIA, Principal, BAC/Architecture + Planning, PLLC
• Tania Werbizky, Preservation League of New York State
• Terrance Robinson, Vice Chair of Preservation Buffalo Niagara and Buffalo Preservation Board Member


For more images see:
Kelvin Dickinson’s Flickr site of historical images and plans
Melissa Lynn’s beIMAGED blog for more recent images (2010)

Shoreline Apartments, Paul Rudolph, 1974, Buffalo, NY. image: Norstar Development