The Despensata Corporation Working Everyday to Improve the Living, Business and Cultural Conditions in Our Community
The THINK BANK at Broadway & Fillmore, Historic Polonia District. Click image to learn more.
The mission of The Despensata Corporation is to maintain and improve the living, business and cultural conditions in our community.
We will focus on neighborhood development as well as cultural and historical preservation in Historic Polonia in the City of Buffalo.
We will create marketing and promotional plans on an ongoing basis for Historic Polonia, neighborhood markets, churches, religious organizations and significant architectural structures.The plans will include the conceptualization, creation and production of any print or electronic materials, including but not limited to print ads, posters, websites, radio, television and press releases.
We will create an exhibit space that will show renderings and plans for the revitalized district. The exhibition area will include office space for interns and institutions of higher education dedicated to the furtherance of our plans.In addition, this space will serve as the primary site for historic Polonia revitalization and government and agency liaisons.
We will conduct tours of the neighborhood in conjunction with Forgotten Buffalo for public groups and potential developers, investors and members of the media as well as for individuals.
We will seek out existing structures and streetscapes that are ripe for salvage or rehabilitation.
The activities listed above comport with the exempt purposes of The Despensata Corporation as set forth in the Certificate of Incorporation.In summary:“to engage in partnerships with public and private organizations to provide marketing and organization regarding the numerous cultural celebrations in the Buffalo-Niagara region...;”“to service the public in the capacity of an urban guide to the unique landmarks, classic taverns, old world neighborhoods, and historic 20th century sites in the Buffalo-Niagara region;”and “to provide for the mutual assistance, enjoyment, entertainment and improvement of its members by promoting participation in the foregoing social, cultural, civic and athletic activities.”The marketing and planning activities will further our purpose by exposing more individuals and organizations to the area’s potential.Whether it be for investment, development or resettling, a wider audience is a more powerful tool for success.
On Saturday, November 5, 2011, State Senator Mark Grisanti (R-NYS 60th) toured Buffalo’s Historic Polonia District at the request of the non-profit Despensata Corporation (http://www.forgottenbuffalo.com/despensatacorporation.html),. The two-hour walk down Fillmore Ave, Broadway and Paderewski Drive included stops at the Broadway Market & Central Terminal to meet individuals working on the district’s reinvention. Grisanti was joined by Despensata’s Eddy Dobosiewicz and Marty Biniasz along with Paul Lang, Board Member & Chairman of the Architecture Advisory Committee at the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation. Grisanti was brought up-to-speed on some of the challenges facing activists and learned about the grassroots successes currently taking place in Historic Polonia. Broadway Fillmore belongs to Grisanti’s 60th State Senate District.
NOV 1, 2010: Acquired the former Bank of America Building (Union Stock Yard Bank) at the corner of Broadway & Fillmore. Finical assistance provide by Common Council President David Franczyk.
NOV 12, 2010: Designed & purchased advertising to assist in the promotion of the Broadway Market's Thanksgiving and Christmas sales season.
FEB 18, 2011: Hosted public forum, "Revisiting & Reimagining the Broadway Public Market" at E.C.C. City Campus. The event featured Senior Vice President of the Project for Public Spaces Steve Davies. Additional support for this event from Common Council President David Franczyk, Friends of the Broadway Market, B.E.S.T Community Association, Lombard/Clark Block Club.
MAR 19, 2011: Facilitated the craft beer tasting during the Broadway Public Market's St. Patrick's Celebration
MAR 28, 2011: Partnered with the University of Buffalo's School of Architecture & Planning for tour of the Polonia Historic District as part of Junior Studio final design project.
APR 23, 2011: Sponsored the outfitting of brackets & the display of Polish Flags long the Dyngus Day Parade route (Broadway, Fillmore, Peckham & Memorial Drive). Support of this project came from Common Council President David Franczyk with additional support by Ed Jablonski of Jabco General Store in the Broadway Market.
APR 29, 2011: The Think Bank opens at the Union Stock Yard Bank at Broadway & Fillmore. Partnered with the University of Buffalo's School of Architecture & Planning to use space to display Junior Studio final design projects
MAY 4, 2011: National Trust for Historic Preservation tours Historic Polonia District in advance of National Conference.
MAY 11, 2011: Think Bank Public Open House
OCT 2011: To be host of National Trust for Historic Preservation Convention "Field Session" titled "Historic Polonia: Re-Visualizing an Ethnic Neighborhood."
Click image above to learn about the THINK BANK @ 949 Broadway
April 30, 2011: UB School of Architecture and Planning project display - The Think Bank
Think Bank, April 30, 2011
Think Bank: April 30, 2011
Flags in Polonia District: April 2011
Flags in Polonia: April 2011
Flags in Polonia: April 2011
DESPENSATA IN THE NEWS
POWER TO POLONIA Buffalo Spree Magazine April 2011 By Jay Pawlowski
There’s a distinct buzz in the air in the Broadway/Fillmore district, the historic home of Buffalo’s Polish immigrant community—and it’s not just the sizzle of fresh pierogies in preparation for the upcoming Dyngus Day celebration.
It’s hope. Real change. Thanks to the work of a number of proud residents and dedicated members of the grassroots, nonprofit, religious, business, preservation, and political communities, this storied and once-thriving East Side neighborhood is sprouting visible and tangible examples of real progress to combat the blight and urban prairification that has threatened it for decades. There are many who believe in this neighborhood and are using its multitude of surviving architectural, cultural, and residential treasures to build the foundation for a diverse, rejuvenated, and reinvented urban community.
This movement took a major step late in 2010 when two such Polonia proponents, Marty Biniasz and Eddy Dobosiewicz—known to many as the organizers of Forgotten Buffalo Tours and Dyngus Day Buffalo—founded the nonprofit Despensata Corporation to provide a central hub for the revitalization efforts that have been building momentum over the past five years. Despensata worked with Fillmore District Common Council Member David Franczyk to obtain one of the neighborhood’s landmark structures for its headquarters, the century-old bank building at the corner of Broadway and Fillmore. Now, its first order of business is underway—to obtain a historic designation for what Biniasz and Dobosiewicz have outlined as the Historic Polonia District, a triangular portion of the neighborhood located between Broadway, Fillmore Avenue, and Memorial Drive. Representative Louise Slaughter is helping the organization bring preservation and political entities together to determine and obtain the historic designation that will best fit this community.
The authenticity of the neighborhood is attracting what Biniasz and Dobosiewicz call “urban pioneers” longing for a unique city living experience. They cite the examples of a few who recently moved into the neighborhood through creative means: one bought a Polish Veterans hall and built a loft space on the second floor for his primary residence; one rescued a mansard-roof-topped carriage house hours before scheduled demolition; another is renovating a 1910 firehouse. While prices skyrocket in the currently hipper parts of the city, homes here can be bought and fixed up for probably a quarter of that cost—providing excellent opportunities for young professionals, artists, or starting families, Dobosiewicz says: “You’ll be building equity in a cool, funky, urban environment, with lots of amenities within walking distance, and less than two miles from downtown. It’s a no-brainer.”
Other developments are breathing new life into the district. The jaw-dropping restorations of St. Stanislaus Church and Corpus Christi Church highlight the architectural assets of the area. Corpus Christi, rescued from oblivion and now run by the Polish order of the Paulines, recently recorded an actual increase in parishioners, its first in close to 100 years. The Central Terminal Restoration Corporation has a new approach to redevelopment and is attracting attention statewide. The historic Adam Mickiewicz Library & Dramatic Circle continues to host the highly regarded Torn Space Theater. Forgotten Buffalo and the annual Dyngus Day party are introducing more and more Buffalonians to the district’s many unique and quirky taverns, social clubs, and other sites.
Revitalization, however, is never an easy road. First, there’s the common perception that the area is particularly gang-infested, drug-laden, and dangerous. Not true, say Biniasz and Dobosiewicz, adding they feel it’s no more dangerous than Elmwood, Allentown, or other popular areas. Next, the “haphazard demolition” of homes needs to stop, Biniasz says: “People look at these as throwaway structures. They’re not—they tell a story of Buffalo. And they are at a size that a young urbanite can take on.”
The greatest challenge may be getting the city to make a serious commitment to development of the Broadway Market, the historic public marketplace that Biniasz says is the key to everything.
Biniasz concludes, “The positives outweigh the challenges at this point. … It’s been a successful venture so far. We have really started to see a groundswell of awareness and positive attitude.”
“It couldn’t have happened at a more opportune time,” Dobosiewicz says, “because my throat is killing me. We’ve been yelling and screaming for so many years now about the coolness and the uniqueness of this neighborhood, and all of a sudden it seems like we’ve started to reach a critical mass.”
Banking on a historic revival: Nonprofit group buys a former bank on East Side, plans new 'Polonia District'
December 20, 2010; By Deidre Williams, Buffalo News
Less than two miles from downtown Buffalo are the elements of what could be a really vibrant community. Bounded by Broadway, Fillmore Avenue and Memorial Drive, the 121-year-old Broadway Market is there. So are HSBC and M&T Bank branches, and a post office.
The long-standing Lt. Col. Matt Urban Human Services Center on Broadway serves some of the poorest neighborhoods on the East Side, and the Central Terminal is among Buffalo's most architecturally significant structures. Now a local group intends to tie them all together to reinvent that section of the city with the recent purchase of the former Bank of America branch at 949 Broadway.
Despensata Corp. -- a nonprofit group named for a Felician nun who ran charitable organizations in the neighborhood -- plans to reopen the building at the corner of Broadway and Fillmore Avenue and use it as an anchor to revitalize the community. "We're calling it the Historic Polonia District," said Eddy Dobosiewicz, president of Despensata Corp.
The first step in the community renewal process was to save the building. The group's next goal is to get it designated a historic landmark and the neighborhood deemed an historic district, Dobosiewicz said. "That area is historically significant in so many ways," he said. "We have lost a lot of structures due to demolition. It's really sad because some of these structures are about 100 years old. To lose them is such a tragedy."
The bank branch closed in August 2009, although the ATM inside continued operating until a couple of months ago. Since the 2009 closing, bank officials had been working with Common Council President David A. Franczyk to find a suitable group to sell it to that would find some creative, productive use for the building instead of tearing it down or letting it fall into disrepair.
After negotiations fell through with another organization, the bank agreed to sell the 100-year-old building. The $100cq purchase price, combined with closing costs and lawyers' fees, brought the price tag to about $4,000, Dobosiewicz said.
Some of the funds came from the Dyngus Day Parade committee. Franczyk also provided $35,000 in seed money to stabilize the structure and to help Despensata get organized. The money also offsets security and maintenance costs, Dobosiewicz said.
"I think it's great what's happening," Franczyk said. "I support what [Despensata is] doing. The building is too important just to let it go."
While "it took some time" for bank officials to decide who would get the building, it was worth the time and effort, a spokesman said, because Despensata will be good stewards.
"Ultimately, the building stays as is from an architectural perspective and in the hands of someone to preserve the building and to use it as a model to revitalize the neighborhood," said Kevin Murphy, Buffalo market president for Bank of America.
Plans call for using the main area of the building for fundraising and exhibit space. Eventually, the idea is to provide office and studio space for architectural students at the University at Buffalo.
Jordan Geiger, an assistant professor in UB's School of Architecture and Planning, said the collaboration may start with a public forum that includes people in the field of architecture and planning, community members and City Hall officials. The event may take place in late spring 2011, Geiger said.
Dobosiewicz said as soon as activities start happening at the building, the focus will turn to reinventing the neighborhood. And the way to do it is by capitalizing on its historical legacy, something other developers of East Side communities have been ignoring for the past 15 to 20 years in their revitalization efforts, Dobosiewicz said.
"They're all trying to build Lancaster or Depew. That thing on Sycamore [and Jefferson Avenue] doesn't even blend with existing architecture. It's glaringly different and screams suburbia. If I want to live in the suburbs, I'll move to Orchard Park," he said. "I want to feel like I'm living in the city."
The historical heritage strategy is similar to the approach taken in Cleveland's Tremont District, Dobosiewicz said. There, it took neighbors about 12 years to transform a drug- and crime-ridden community into a great place to live. Dobosiewicz visited and talked with Tremont residents, who shared horror stories and success stories of what the neighborhood was like and what it has become. He said one man purchased a house there about 15 years ago and for the first year, he had to sit on his front porch at night to ward off crime and drug activity. One thing that made the difference in Tremont was attracting artists, artisans and young people to invest in and move into the area. It helped transform the community from a rundown ghetto to a bustling area with restaurants, art galleries and great places to shop, Dobosiewicz said.
"It was really tough, but it's kind of the same thing that's going on here," Dobosiewicz said. "[Tremont is] a cool, funky urban environment that parallels this [community] in so many ways -- beautiful old churches, beautiful architecture, what was once a vibrant business district. It's almost a mirror image of what going on in the Polonia district."
Dobosiewicz acknowledged Despensata members will have to raise money through a combination of grants, foundations, donations and government funds to implement many of the ideas, but the hope is the Historic Polonia District will have similar success. The belief is that it will start by reviving an old bank building at Broadway and Fillmore Avenue. "I didn't want to see it become a [corner store] or turned into a check-cashing operation, something that screams poverty and blight," Dobosiewicz said. "It was important visually and psychologically to preserve that building."
The Broadway Market at the Crossroads: Biniasz, Dobosiewicz Remain Optimistic about the Market, Neighborhood, Part III
Christina M. Abt. Ampol Eagle, February 3, 2011
Marty Biniasz and Eddy Dobosiewicz are lifelong friends. The two spent the 1970s and 80s growing up in an East Side Buffalo neighborhood ethnically branded as, Polonia. Their childhoods were defined by Polish foods and traditions served up around architectural landmarks such as Corpus Christi and St. Stanislaus churches, The Central Terminal and The Broadway Market. It is a shared life experience that has bonded the men with a passionate dedication to “re-inventing” their once vibrant childhood neighborhood. It is also a passion that, at times, makes them lightening rods of distrust and resentment among those equally devoted to the same cause.
Biniasz and Dobosiewicz are business partners as well as childhood friends. When asked to describe themselves, Marty offers the title of marketing/public relations consultant. Eddy lists television personality, co-founder of Dyngus Day Buffalo (www.dyngusday buffalo.com) and Forgotten Buffalo Tours (www.forgottenbuffalo.com.) Yet according to Eddy, the title that the two most proudly wear is re-inventors of “Historic Polonia.”
“Marty and I started the Dyngus Day Buffalo event in 2007 as a way to promote the celebration as a regional event,” Dobosiewicz said. “Since then it’s grown at an astronomical rate into a national event. Then we started the Forgotten Buffalo Tours. Between the two we are now bringing thousands and thousands of people into this neighborhood, bringing the merchants more money in a day than they make in a month – making a difference.”
Biniasz and Dobosiewicz’s dedication to resurrecting the deteriorating East Side neighborhood brought them to the attention of the management board of the Broadway Market. Before long both men were invited to serve as board members and, later, as members of the Broadway Market Task Force (following the collapse of the management board.) The two fully embraced their volunteer roles, taking over promotion of the struggling venue for the 2008 Christmas Fair and the 2009 Easter Season. The men proudly offer that their efforts with both events attracted new vendors and a record number of market goers, including the biggest crowd to come to the market during an Easter season in 30 years. Buoyed by their success, the duo became actively involved in the 2009 search for a new market manager.
“Tom Kerr was chosen as the manager with the hope that his managerial experience would help us clean up the building and the business environment,” Biniasz said. “And he made some small gains initially but there was never a group of community leaders and professionals guiding him. The task force was supposed to serve as that mechanism, but it didn’t work out that way. Both Eddy and I offered our help for that Easter Season, but about a month into Mr. Kerr’s position as market director it became obvious that we were not going to have a hospitable relationship. Any ideas we offered fell on deaf ears. So we stepped back.”
The men’s withdrawal from their volunteer work at the market didn’t mean that Biniasz and Dobosiewicz stopped trying to resuscitate the neighborhood surrounding it. Rather, as they point out, the two threw their efforts into expanding Dyngus Day and the Forgotten Buffalo Tours, as well as taking steps to shore up their sagging neighborhood’s infrastructure. Dobosiewicz purchased Strusienski’s Tavern on Paderewski Drive at auction using his own private funds. The men also set up a not for profit corporation, named after a long time East Side community activist Sister Mary Desponsata Buczak. Through the Despensata (sic) Corporation they purchased the landmark Union Stockyards (Liberty Bank) Building, within walking distance of the Broadway Market. They are also focused on possibly reclaiming houses in the neighborhood through the not for profit, as a means of salvaging the history of the neighborhood.
Dobosiewicz said the building purchases are partially intended to stimulate a neighborhood real estate turn around. He further explains that the bank will eventually operate as a center for arts and architecture, in partnership with the University of Buffalo, and that Buffalo Common Council President and Fillmore District Council Representative, David Franczyk has already contributed $35,000 in maintenance funding. Yet what Biniasz and Dobosiewicz proudly describe as their positive community actions have stirred questions and controversy within the Broadway Fillmore neighborhood concerning their funding sources, their personal gain and their ultimate intent.
“We’ve been confronted with obstacles every step of the way from people in the neighborhood,” Dobosiewicz said. “They have been there for generations and somehow feel like we’re carpetbaggers. And I wouldn’t mind so much except that you can’t keep sitting around and talking about what needs to be done while the neighborhood is crumbling. We came in here, made a lot of noise and made a difference and we’ve blown their minds.”
Biniasz supports his longtime friend’s perspective on their revitalization efforts. “Eddy and I are unique in that we are extremely passionate about this community and we’re willing to speak out,” Biniasz said. “I don’t think that there’s anyone else who calls their government officials everyday to try and help this neighborhood. No one else travels to other public markets at their own expense to learn about ways to improve Buffalo’s public market. And the reason we do these things is to be able to bring our children back to this neighborhood and share it with them and to help the people and the businesses here. We want this neighborhood to grow and for the area businesses to be profitable. So we continue to be a resource to anybody – the City, the Market – anyway that we can to help the community and the tenants at the market grow and make money.”
These days, following the recent departure of Kerr from the market and the continued absence of a director, Biniasz and Dobosiewicz have stepped back into their Broadway Market volunteer roles with a renewed passion. They are attacking the project with a multi-tiered approach that includes regular meetings between Eddy and Mayor Byron Brown and his staff, reaching out to various public market experts for their input and perspectives and, of course, generating publicity as only they can. The pair’s latest combined effort involves a Project for Public Spaces Plan that was created as a market template in 1999.
“The problem with the market is that there is no plan for it,” Biniasz said. “Yet what’s ironic is that there has been a plan in place for the market since 1999 and it’s never been used. It’s a good plan that now is outdated and just needs to be re-invented. So Eddy and I have invited Steve Davies, from the Project for Public Spaces who originally authored the plan, to come to Buffalo and revisit the report and talk about the changes in public market trends. It’s a discussion that needs to take place on a city wide basis and Eddy and I are using our own money to bring Mr. Davies to Buffalo on Feb. 18, for a community discussion on the future of the Broadway Market as Buffalo’s public market.”
In talking about the Plan for Public Spaces Report, both men reference two key points that pinpoint the market’s primary challenges.
“In the report it says that government management is a problem,” Biniasz said. “The city owns the market building and therefore controls the market’s destiny. So we need the city to make a commitment to the market that they’ll do all that they can to support it along the lines of Kleinhans and the Albright Knox Gallery and Shea’s. They need to clearly establish that the Broadway Market is going to be one of the key elements to stabilize the Historic Polonia area. And then we all need to work together to put pressure on the city to make that happen. The second issue noted in the report is the tenants. Many are really only concerned about their own stand, not on what will benefit the customer experience. They need to organize and pull together to change what happens around here.”
When questioned about their roles at the market which, at times, seem to thwart the very unity for which they are calling, both men strongly defend their passionate dedication.
“Our record speaks for itself,” Dobosiewicz said. “What we have achieved in this neighborhood in the last five or six years is unprecedented. And the fact that people question our motives makes me want to defy anyone to present evidence that we have ever done anything that has been exclusionary. We have always been inclusive. And I know that there’s a perception out there that we’re becoming millionaires, but again I say show me credible proof or evidence of how we’re profiting personally. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
“We want to stay positive on what we can do here at the market,” Dobosiewicz adds. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel. There is tremendous potential for this market and the neighborhood surrounding it and re-inventing it will happen, no question about it. Even if we don’t get support from the city, we will get this done. People like Marty and I, with good intentions, are misunderstood on a daily basis across the planet. Is that going to stop us? No.”