Fundraising Relaunched for Hamburg Water Tower
After a two-year break, a fundraising campaign to paint a water tower in Hamburg, New York, as a hamburger has returned. The community wants to paint the structure in hopes to boost economic development and tourism in the area.
Hamburger Tower History
Residents of Hamburg, near Buffalo, mounted a drive to have an out-of-commission elevated steel water storage tank repainted to resemble the staple of American cuisine. The multi-column Hamburg tank, within sight of the New York State Thruway, is already shaped a bit like a round sandwich anyway, and resident Chris Hannotte Luly, who graduated from the Leadership Buffalo program in 2016, made it her mission in 2017 to bring the meaty vision to fruition.
That year, the town's council approved a plan for Luly to begin fundraising for the project, after determining that the tower is structurally sound, and also uncovering lead paint that would balloon the cost of the aesthetic renovation. Luly had spearheaded a petition that got more than 2,000 signatures prior to the council decision.
In August 2018, four finalists were up for a public vote including designs by Scott Schranz of Nickle City Designs, Casey Milbrand of CWM Designs, muralist Tim Martin and RidgeLogic Development's Dylan Cownie.
Plans are still in the works to paint the Hamburg water tower to make it look like a hamburger. https://t.co/J8EIP112Mj— WGRZ (@WGRZ) July 6, 2022
In November, Cownie won the water tower artwork competition and a final design for the project was selected; his creation featured what he thought people would like to see and like to eat—a hamburger.
Most recently, the Hamburger Water Tower Committee was at the Hamburg BurgerFest to raise awareness and get in the spirit of the event.
In July 2019, the Hamburger Water Tower Committee was granted tax-exempt status by the IRS, meaning fundraising could begin. At the time, the paint job was expected to cost around $1 million to abrasive blast the paint to reach steel.
Festival coordinator Sue Ganey noted that around the country there are a number of towers that look like ketchup bottles and peaches, adding that there was no reason “not to have a hamburger in Hamburg.” To those on the committee, repainting the tower is more about drawing tourism than something that is just a fun idea.
“These iconic infrastructure projects, they exist all across the United States, and people travel to see them,” said Luly, chairperson of the committee. “So we believe that if we paint it, they will come here to the Southtowns.”
Fundraising Efforts Continue
After taking a two-year hiatus in fundraising due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the committee has relaunched its effort to raise money to repaint the water tower.
“We have a community share for our matching funds of about $60,000. We’ve raised about $10,000 prior to the pandemic. We just got started with our fundraising, and then we kind of got shut down,” Luly, chair of the Hamburger Water Tower Project, told WGRZ.
Luly could not provide a timeline since there’s lot of fundraising left to go. Since the cost of supplies and labor have also increased since pre-pandemic, plans have been changed for the overall scope of the project.
“We have cut our costs in half because we've decided to do an overcoat system rather than a total replacement, so instead of sandblasting to the raw steel, and totally encapsulating it and scaffolding it, we're going to use a man lift, and we'll just spot sand the rusty parts of the water tower, and then just overcoat it,” Luly said.
According to the structure’s website, the total cost now is expected to be about $500,000, which over 80% is needed for restoration due to deferred maintenance since the Town of Hamburg purchased it from the Erie County Water Authority as it was no longer in use.
“We're looking at some grant opportunities. We're also taking a fresh look at the project,” Hamburg Supervisor Randy Hoak said. “We'd like to do whatever we can to make the vision of this group come to fruition.”
Hoak said the town engineer is working to test the water tower to see what type of remediation and paint it needs. He added the Town Board would be discussing the project over the next few months.
Additionally, the committee attended Burgerfest earlier this month, which also returned for the first time in two years, to raise awareness and money to paint the water tower. The event featured 90 vendors and those running the festival expected thousands of people to attend.
Fundraising efforts at the festival included bidding on raffles for signed Buffalo Bills memorabilia, as well as Hamburger Water Tower t-shirts signed by Cownie. Donations can also be made here.
“Painting the Hamburg water tower means — not just for Hamburg, but for all of Western New York — is an economic development opportunity through tourism,” said Luly. “If we paint it, they will come.”