The day that ground was broken for the University at Buffalo’s new downtown medical school was a day that few people thought would come. That, alone, makes it a remarkable event. Even more remarkable, though, is that it is only the latest in a series of days that few people thought would ever come. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said it well: This is a new Buffalo.
The work is going on around the city, but no project is more exciting or holds more potential than the medical school’s move downtown, where it will join and leverage the development of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. The economic potential of the campus is huge. The school’s move there will help attract top students and professors.
The project is a $375 million endeavor, helping to achieve the goal of bringing hospitals, research and doctor-training facilities to one downtown location. There is plenty else there already. Buffalo General Medical Center and Roswell Park Cancer Institute are two longtime residents of the neighborhood. Add to that the Gates Vascular Institute, UB’s Clinical and Translational Research Center and the Hauptmann-Woodward Institute.
And there will be more. Soon, the John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital will move there from Elmwood Avenue. Also pending are Ciminelli Real Estate Corp.’s medical office building and Roswell Park’s Clinical Sciences Center. And only a few blocks to the south, Catholic Health is building a new headquarters.
It is a startling development in a neighborhood whose economic engine was little but two neighboring hospitals. The activity there will surely attract other development, as entrepreneurs seek to serve the thousands of people who will be living and working in that area.
What is more, the developments in and around the Medical Campus are not alone. Several such developments are under way around Buffalo – sites that Cuomo toured on Tuesday when he came here for the medical school’s groundbreaking.
Most obvious is the waterfront, where the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. is leading a breathtaking reimagining of the city’s most underused asset. At the inner harbor, Canalside is springing to life as a center of public activities, including concerts.
It is already leveraging other development, as the former Donovan State Office Building is transformed into a law office and hotel. Across the street, in the Webster Block, Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula is constructing a huge building that will house a hotel and two full-size hockey rinks, expected to leverage further economic activity by attracting tournaments to Buffalo.
Soon, with the sale of outer harbor land by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Association, a park and other developments will begin to take shape there. The redevelopment of Ohio Street into an attractive parkway will ease access to the new parkland.
To the east, Larkinville is one of the city’s great surprises. Led by Buffalo’s most public-spirited developer, Howard Zemsky, the revival of a dormant district began with the renovation of the Larkin Building. As its offices filled, activity spread to nearby buildings and spilled out onto the street, where concerts, food trucks and other public attractions are reinjecting vitality into what had been one of Buffalo’s forgotten neighborhoods.
And there is more. Between downtown and Larkinville, several projects are under way, holding out hope for a continuous stretch of renewal. On Scott Street near the casino, developer Carl Paladino is renovating the decrepit Coffee Rich building into apartments, offices and a restaurant.
This was the city that for decades couldn’t get out of its own way, and one, as Cuomo acknowledged, that had long been forgotten by Albany. This is a new day and different Buffalo. For that, Cuomo and especially Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, who found the money to fuel much of the waterfront work, get tremendous credit.
So do the developers and entrepreneurs who recognized their opportunity and took a chance. In their hands lies the possibility that this cycle of renewal will continue for years to come.