Gates Circle could become the site of Buffalo’s biggest housing development in decades.
Monday, Kaleida Health announced that the former Millard Fillmore Hospital at Gates Circle will be transformed into a $63 million campus with more than 550 housing units projected, ranging from condominiums and market-rate apartments to continual care for elderly residents.
“We were very, very pleased with the quality of the three proposals that we received,” said John R. Koelmel, chairman of Kaleida. “It made our work difficult in terms of selecting only one.”
Under the plan, Canterbury Woods would develop a $28 million urban campus providing continual care for 55 units of senior citizen housing. It will be joined by a $35 million project that over several years could phase in more than 500 market-rate residential apartments, midmarket condominiums and for-sale townhomes.
No timetable was announced for completing the project, or when the first tenants could move in.
J. Timothy Vaeth, Montante Development’s president, said the site plan and artistic renderings of buildings unveiled Monday were meant to be a starting point for discussion.
“This site is loaded with strength. We don’t want to create a whole little village unto ourselves, and we are not going to pursue a suburban design. We want to connect with what’s existing. We understand our context and our site, and this will be an urban development,” Vaeth said.
As part of the project, Lancaster Avenue will be extended from Delaware Avenue to Linwood Avenue, where some housing and retail could be established. A small grocery store and a health and wellness center are among the retail establishments envisioned for the ground floor of buildings containing housing.
Much of the planned housing would be newly built, and scattered in the immediate hospital footprint; amid retail and commercial businesses on the extended Lancaster Avenue; on nearby locations that were part of the purchase at 50 Gates Circle, and on two acres of land across Lafayette Avenue where there are currently two buildings and parking; on townhouses built on Linwood Avenue; and in a couple of “six- or seven-story” buildings adjacent to similarly sized buildings to the south, with retail or commercial businesses on the first floor.
In reimagining the 10-acre, 882,000-square-foot site, considerable green space will be introduced to the blacktopped complex, including a public pavilion for events. So will sustainable design elements on a garage roof to provide solar energy and capturing of rainwater.
A city-owned parking ramp with about 900 parking spaces on Linwood Avenue, now shuttered, would be reused.
Kaleida outlined the project after choosing a joint venture between TM Montante Development, Episcopal Church Home & Affiliates and Frontier Industrial Corp. to redevelop the huge former hospital complex, which closed in 2012.
The proposal won out over competing concepts from Benderson Development Co. and Uniland Development Co., both of which also included housing as the major component in their proposals.
Local developer Chason Affinity was initially chosen by Kaleida’s board of directors to develop the site in August 2012, when it was announced that a veterinary school of medicine was coming to the sprawling site. When the deal died a year later, Kaleida issued a second request for proposals, leading to Monday’s announcement.
Kaleida offered a $1 million prize to the winning developer once it takes title to the property.
Vaeth said the housing that Montante is planning will be phased in over “five to seven years” and will encompass everyone from empty-nesters and people living alone to families. It could also include a tie-in with Canisius College for some student housing, although he said that subject has yet to be broached with the college.
Vaethe said the goal was to reach “upwards of 500” housing units but would depend in part on what neighbors were comfortable with and what the market would bear.
“Ultimately, if we won’t get 500 units, we’re going to get several hundred, no doubt,” he said.
Vaeth said that the main hospital building will likely be demolished because it doesn’t appear to meet Canterbury Woods’ needs and suggested that at least half of the 13 buildings may also need to come down. They hope to save the original 1911 homeopathic hospital.
Rob Wallace, CEO of Episcopal Church Home & Affiliates, Canterbury Woods’ parent company, said market studies showed that there was a demand in the city for the kind of extended senior care the company provides in Amherst, including rehabilitation and skilled-nursing services.
“What we found is that Buffalonians who live in the City of Buffalo want to live in the City of Buffalo, and they want to be happy, healthy and active no matter what age. They want to stay in this great city and now they can,” Wallace said.
“For our part, we believe bringing Canterbury Woods to Gates Circle addresses a need and is in keeping with the important residential history of this beautiful city neighborhood.”
Brendan R. Mehaffy, who heads the city’s Office of Strategic Planning, praised the project and Kaleida’s stewardship of the process.
“Kaleida went through a deliberate process to find a project that worked in the City of Buffalo. They weren’t just going to take the highest bidder. They wanted to know what they were going to do here, and see what was going to fit. This was a two- to three-year process, and they deserve a tremendous amount of credit for sticking with it,” Mehaffy said.
Architectural Resources is the architect for Canterbury Woods, while Wendel Duchscherer Architects & Engineers is developing Montante’s master plan.
Vaeth said that the company hadn’t taken on a project of this size but was up to the job. Thomas Montante spent years running Uniland with his brother Carl, and Vaeth said he worked as vice president of development at Ciminelli Real Estate Corp., most recently spearheading the Conventus building now under construction.
“As a firm we have not done something so aggressively in the past. We have the internal capability and capacity to do this,” he said.
Officials have started to meet with neighborhood groups, including a meeting Tuesday with the Linwood Avenue Historical Association, and in the coming months will begin the environmental review process.