Senior housing planned by Canterbury Woods for former Millard Gates site - The Buffalo News
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Senior housing planned by Canterbury Woods for former Millard Gates site

The operators of Canterbury Woods, the large, upscale retirement community in Amherst, plan to redevelop the former Millard Fillmore Gates Circle Hospital, The Buffalo News learned Sunday.

Kaleida Health has scheduled a news conference today to announce redevelopment plans built around senior citizen housing for the nearly 10-acre, 882,000-square-foot hospital site, which contains 13 buildings.

A Canterbury Woods spokesman declined to comment, and a spokesman for Kaleida would not identify the developer.

Canterbury Woods is owned by Episcopal Church Home & Affiliates, which once operated a nursing home near the Peace Bridge. The suburban complex offers independent living and assisted living, as well as rehabilitation and skilled nursing.

The operators of Canterbury Woods said in the spring that they were exploring the possibility of buying the Women & Children’s Hospital property at 219 Bryant St. in Buffalo and converting it into some form of senior citizen or elder care facility. The hospital is moving in 2016 into the new John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital, now under construction at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

Some initial reactions to putting senior citizen housing in the former Millard Fillmore Hospital complex on Gates Circle were favorable.

“I do believe that type of senior living, continuum of care concept would be a great option for seniors and their families to remain in the city. I think there is a void in the market that Canterbury Woods would fill, and I’d consider this a very appropriate reuse of the site,” said developer Howard A. Zemsky, co-chairman of the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council.

Assemblywoman Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes, D-Buffalo, said that such a facility could fill a need for senior citizen housing that could keep people in the city. “There is a certain scale of economy that comes with a critical mass of seniors, much like for young people,” Peoples-Stokes said in discussing the potential benefits. “It could also bode well for additional businesses in the area.”

Developer Carl P. Paladino said that senior citizen housing would make sense for the Gates Circle complex. “I think it would be an excellent use of the facility,” he said. “I think you should reuse all of that infrastructure, which would definitely be better for the dollars on the project.”

A $65 million proposal by Chason Affinity Cos. to bring a veterinary teaching hospital to Buffalo – hailed as an adventurous, out-of-the-box choice when announced in August 2012 – sank after the collapse of yearlong negotiations between that potential developer and DeVry Institute’s Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine.

That led Kaleida to try for a second time to find a new owner for the large property that closed in March 2012 and is not part of the health care provider’s plans. Three local developers responded to the second round of requests for proposals, including Amherst-based Uniland Development Co.

Uniland was the runner-up the first time around, when it proposed a six-story apartment building, two-story townhouses, underground parking, boutique hotel, and office and retail space. A Uniland spokeswoman declined to comment.

The original effort to select a developer took 18 months before Kaleida’s board, with input from an advisory panel, made its selection. This time, the selection process was swift, taking four months. Kaleida has offered a $1 million prize to the winning developer once it takes title to the property.

The Millard Fillmore complex offers developers many advantages, said Brendan R. Mehaffy, executive director of the city’s Office of Strategic Planning.

“It’s a large site, there are many components to it, there’s a city parking garage located on the site, and it’s in between two residential neighborhoods. It’s strategically located by Canisius College, Elmwood Village and the Olmsted park system,” he said. “There’s a lot going for this site.”

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