Community and business leaders from Allentown must come together soon with the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and start working to create a West Side gateway to the medical corridor or risk losing millions of dollars in federal funding, they were told this week.
About $6.8 million in federal, state and local funding was secured for the Medical Campus in 2005. Of that, $2 million has been earmarked for improvements to the public right of way and enhanced amenities for pedestrians from Washington Street to North Oak Street. That leaves about $4.8 million for other uses, plus an additional $100,000 already included in the City of Buffalo's 2012-13 capital budget for design work for the Allen Street Improvement Project.
During a news conference Monday at Main and Allen streets, where the gateway would begin, Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, pushed for Medical Campus officials to work with the Allentown Association and the community to target the remaining federal funding and begin creating a gateway from Main and Allen streets to Main and Wadsworth.
"The days of waiting are over. The rapid growth of the Medical Campus brings exciting new opportunities for Buffalo and Western New York," Higgins said.
"There is great potential for local business and job growth, as well as quality-of-life enhancements. Improvements to the western gateway would tap into that potential and significantly benefit the Allentown community."
Higgins was joined by Mayor Byron W. Brown, Allentown Association President Edward R. Castine Jr. and Medical Campus President and CEO Matthew K. Enstice.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Allentown District includes about 1,300 homes and businesses.Soon the University at Buffalo will begin constructing a new medical school at Main and Allen streets.
"We need to lay the groundwork now for the critical mass coming to the BNMC," Higgins said.
Brown, Castine and Enstice agreed that the gateway project will provide an important link between the growing Medical Campus and the Allentown neighborhood and business district.
"We look forward to continuing to work with [Higgins], the BNMC and the City of Buffalo on what we ultimately hope will be a total refurbishment of Allen Street … so the Allentown community and small businesses can benefit from being at the doorstep of the Medical Campus and very soon the UB medical school," Castine said.
"The success of the Medical Campus as a catalyst for economic development will not just take place within the member institutions," Enstice said, "but will also spill over into surrounding neighborhoods."