The Big Three of medical corridor development - The Buffalo News
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The Big Three of medical corridor development

Ciminelli family: $90 million

In addition to being the only private developers with a major role on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus itself, the Ciminellis’ real estate and development companies are playing a major role on the off-campus medical corridor.

The Ciminelli family’s on-campus role dates to the early 1990s, when Frank L. Ciminelli bought a run-down office building on High Street, in front of Buffalo General Hospital, convinced that one day the property would be crucial to what, at the time, was just talk of a Medical Campus. The Ciminelli companies have since invested $20 million buying and renovating off-campus properties and are expected to invest upward of $70 million more on the properties they recently bought or are in the process of buying.

Across from the Medical Campus, Ciminelli Real Estate Corp., headed by Paul Ciminelli, is in the process of acquiring the Salvation Army and EPIC buildings, at 954 and 1000 Main St., possibly converting the properties to an apartment complex and retail pavilion.

Beyond that, Ciminelli is credited with establishing the northern end of the medical corridor with his Bethune Lofts, located 3.6 miles up Main Street but still marketed to Medical Campus employees because Bethune, like the medical campus, is on the Metro Rail line.

Paul’s brother Lou, president of LPCiminelli, is converting the former Central Park Plaza, located southeast of Bethune, into a residential-commercial-retail center which, some developers say, could encourage more development east of Main Street.

Montante family: $70 million

Before the Medical Campus existed, in the mid-1980s, the Montante family’s Uniland Development Co. bought vacant land at Genesee and Oak streets, considered a gateway to the city.

“A good developer will see an opportunity down the road. That’s what we look at,” said Michael J. Montante, vice president at Uniland. “It’s a risk. It’s a speculation, because we don’t know exactly what purpose it will have in two, three or 10 years from now.”

Over the years, Uniland turned down smaller projects proposed for the site, Montante said. Uniland now is building a six-story building on the site that will be the headquarters for Catholic Health System – a project that helps extend the southern boundary of the medical corridor.

Uniland, headed by Carl Montante Sr., added to the southern push by agreeing to buy the Frey the Wheelman buildings on nearby Ellicott and Tupper streets, with plans to convert the century-old parts distributor company’s facilities into a technology hub, capitalizing on its location between the Medical Campus and downtown Buffalo.

At the same time, TM Montante Development, a separate company headed by Carl’s brother Thomas Montante, is converting the former Spaghetti Warehouse on lower Elm Street into apartments and commercial space.

The Montante investments are expected to reach about $70 million.

Paladino family: $90 million

Carl P. Paladino, the city’s largest landowner, for decades bought mostly corner and vacant lots east of Main Street and north of the Medical Campus, waiting for the day when the land would be in demand.

Sometimes Paladino, founder and chairman of Ellicott Development Co., rented or resold his purchases. Other times he banked land for the future.

The Buffalo News identified 44 properties that Paladino and his son, William, bought over the last five years, either on the Metro Rail line or close to the medical campus. The properties range from vacant side-street lots purchased for $500 at city auctions to Main Street properties selling for more than $1 million.

The Paladinos invested $5.5 million buying the properties. They will spend $75 million to $85 million renovating them, said William Paladino, now Ellicott Development CEO.

Almost all of Paladino’s purchases are on the east side of Main Street or farther east, between Main Street and Michigan Avenue. Some believe the Paladino properties will help bring Buffalo’s East Side into the medical corridor boom.

The Paladino properties include the former Our Lady of Lourdes Church, school and convent on Main Street, as well as nearby property on St. Paul Mall, which may all become a housing-retail-office project, William Paladino said. Also, the Paladinos bought virtually an entire square block farther north on the eastern side of Main Street and going east on Ellicott Street. The properties include the old Squier Mansion as well as the former William S. Hein Co. legal publishing complex. Around the corner is the Health Sciences Charter School, which Paladino financed by acquiring the building and then selling it – and other nearby properties – to the school.

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