When Millard Fillmore Hospital at Gates Circle closed its doors for the last time amid toasts and tears last month, a page of history turned for a hospital campus that dates back more than a century.
The question now remains, who has the greatest vision and is willing to undertake the substantial risk of reinventing the Gates Circle hospital complex into something vibrant, engaging and economically sustainable?
That's the challenge ahead: sensitively and profitably converting nearly 900,000 square feet of space in multiple buildings across 10 acres into something that still can be considered a community asset.
Responses to that daunting dilemma don't come easy or cheap. But they are essential to the goal of making best use of one of Buffalo's prime addresses.
The first time Kaleida officials tried to attract reuse proposals for the Millard Fillmore Gates site, they received lackluster interest. At that point, a less responsible corporation could have done what many other former owners of once-impressive buildings have done all over the City of Buffalo.
They could have told themselves and the greater community that they had made an effort, dragged out the nails and window boards, then sat on their hands. Instead, however, Kaleida Health put its money where its mouth is and worked more aggressively to drum up developer interest.
It recast its call for proposals as a design and development competition with a $1 million prize going to the winner. The company further stirred interest by offering a total of $70,000 in prizes for threerunners-up.
Reuse proposals are due May 4 and will be judged by an eight-member jury, led by the dean of the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning.
To date, 15 local, national and international developers have expressed an interest in submitting adaptive reuse proposals for the Millard Fillmore property. That's a good sign.
We hope this interest translates into stellar and thought-provoking proposals by the deadline, and that these submissions stir a groundswell of community discussion about all the exciting possibilities of what could be.
Kaleida has gone to great lengths to keep the high-profile Millard Fillmore Gates property from suffering the plight of other ruined city properties once mothballed with little more than wistful hopes and lip service. The company's efforts deserve to be rewarded.
Success with the Gates property will hopefully become the pattern card for the Women & Children's Hospital complex when its services are relocated to the downtown medical campus in 2017.
As for the heart and soul of Millard Fillmore Hospital, which comprises the people and patients who have served as its legacy for generations, we expect it will continue to enjoy a long and impressive future in its new incarnation as Gates Vascular Institute on Ellicott Street.
Now adjacent to Buffalo General Hospital, Gates Vascular Institute will strengthen the reputation and importance of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus as a center for stroke and vascular care. And the Vascular Institute will gain strength from the services of Buffalo General and the other institutions that are putting Buffalo on the map as a focal point for medical care and research.