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Ramp project tackles issue in Fruit Belt

A new parking ramp planned for the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus will more than double the number of spaces at an Ellicott Street site, but won’t necessarily resolve the issue of campus employees parking on residential streets in the Fruit Belt community.

Space in the planned 1,900-slot garage is intended primarily for patients and visitors to the campus, although employees will be able to park there, as well.

But the Fruit Belt community will benefit from a 20 percent share of parking revenues during the first 30 years of a 50-year lease, according to Mayor Byron W. Brown.

The City of Buffalo and the Medical Campus each will control 40 percent of the projected $15 million in revenues. The community share will amount to $3 million.

“Those resources will be used for community benefits for the surrounding community, flowing out in a 1-mile radius,” Brown said at a news conference on top of the existing Ellicott Goodrich Garage.

The lease agreement for construction of the new ramp also contains workforce goals of 25 percent minority and 5 percent women, as well as 75 percent local, defined as workers living within 100 miles – excluding Canada – of the project site.

“This is a great agreement for the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, for the residents of the City of Buffalo and for the residents of the Fruit Belt,” Brown said.

Common Council President Darius G. Pridgen, who represents the Ellicott District, agrees. He said he’s particularly excited about the 20 percent of revenues that will go to the surrounding area.

“It shows the commitment that this campus has to the residents and the businesses and the people,” Pridgen said.

The existing parking garage, which can accommodate about 900 vehicles, will be demolished and replaced with a garage with a capacity of 1,900.

The issue of campus employees parking on residential streets, to avoid paying to park in existing ramps, remains a challenge. “We are working on a variety of strategies to address that,” Brown said.

Fruit Belt residents and business owners have mobilized to “take back” their streets. In early August, they staged a “park-in” protest, claiming those on-street spaces for themselves. Later that month, they held a rally to launch a campaign in which pink imitation no-parking tickets were left on the windshields of “offenders.”

Residents also want the State Legislature to enact a bill to establish a residential parking permit system for the area. After passing in the Assembly, it stalled in the Senate.

The cost of the parking garage project wasn’t released Tuesday, nor was its timeline. Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus Inc. will pay for the garage and manage it.

“The plan is to fast-track construction,” the mayor said, adding that it has to move quickly because of other facilities now under construction on the campus.