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Kaleida considers ideas for former hospital

A 5 p.m. deadline passed Friday for the hoped-for answer to a tough development question: What to do with the imposing and now-vacant Millard Fillmore Hospital.

Kaleida Health offered $1 million in a contest for developers or design teams to submit proposals for the reuse of the Gates Circle facility.

Four firms submitted proposals, but Kaleida Health declined to identify them, saying it wanted time to make sure the candidates had the ability to turn their ideas into reality.

The prize goes to the team that can offer a viable idea and -- this is the tough part -- purchase the property and get a project started.

"We've already seen groups pull back after they see how complicated this will be or they realize that they need to take possession of the property," said Edward F. Walsh Jr., past president of the Kaleida Health board and head of a Millard Fillmore advisory committee.

Operations ceased at Millard Fillmore at the end of March and moved to new facilities on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, where Kaleida Health is consolidating many services.

Kaleida Health decided to offer prize money after failing to attract a proposal from developers it contacted during the lead-up to the hospital's closure.

An eight-member jury, led by Robert G. Shibley, dean of the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning, will judge the contest. The original plan called three runner-up prizes of $40,000, $20,000 and $10,000, respectively, as well as a public exhibit of finalists.

The winner, if one emerges, from the candidates also will be influenced by recommendations from a neighborhood advisory group and consultant developers and, ultimately, will be chosen by the Kaleida Health board of directors, Walsh said.

"Our hope is that we will have some choices," Walsh said. "We're eager to learn about them."

Last April, a panel of experts concluded that adapting Millard Fillmore for reuse offered the city an unprecedented opportunity to restore Frederick Law Olmsted's parkway vision at Gates Circle.

The recommendations by the Urban Land Institute included razing sections of the hospital and restoring other areas with an eye toward a phased development that fit the area's character.

Kaleida Health brought in the nonprofit institute to help devise a general road map for adapting the hospital's nearly 900,000 square feet of buildings on 10 acres.