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Cuomo, others celebrate ‘topping off’ of new UB medical school

University at Buffalo’s new Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences reached the height of its achievement Tuesday – physically speaking – as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, UB officials, Delaware North Chairman Jeremy Jacobs Sr. and major donors gathered to celebrate the “topping off” of the building on Main Street in downtown Buffalo.

Speaking before a crowd of about 150, Cuomo touted the $375 million project as an example of how far Buffalo has come in the last few years, while Jacobs – who donated $30 million last year to put his family’s name on the building – called it the “finest medical school facility in the country.”

“This new Medical Campus will further cement the University of Buffalo’s position as a national leader in the delivery of quality, affordable health care,” Cuomo said. “By moving this state-of-the-art facility downtown, we will continue to transform this city into a thriving, vibrant hub for 21st-century medicine, research and technology. This project will strengthen the Western New York economy while better connecting thousands of students and faculty with world-class research and development opportunities for decades to come.”

Following the remarks, Cuomo and Jacobs joined with UB President Satish K. Tripathi and others to sign a white steel beam, before a crane raised it high into the air and positioned it atop the eight-story building. The beam, which was filled with signatures of students, faculty, staff, alumni and construction workers, carried an American flag and a small fir tree, which is a traditional symbol of a safe construction site and hope for a successful completion.

In all, 7,459 steel beams, weighing 7,000 tons, were used in the structure.

“Putting the final beam into place for the new medical school building signals the successful completion of the steel construction phase of what is an extraordinary project for the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, the university and the city of Buffalo,” Tripathi said.

Construction of the 628,000-square-foot complex marks the largest such medical education building currently being built nationwide. About 300 workers are now on site daily, as work shifts over the next few months to adding a permanent roof, more than 300 windows, and the building’s “outer envelope,” including the terra cotta facade. Interior work will follow, bringing more construction workers to the project that was designed by architectural firm HOK.

The school will be directly linked to Ciminelli Real Estate Corp.’s Conventus building across High Street, and from there to the new John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital now under construction, as well as to Buffalo General Medical Center and Roswell Park Cancer Institute. That’s designed to encourage collaboration among doctors and scientists from those entities, as well as from UB’s Clinical and Translational Research Center, the Gates Vascular Institute and the Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute.

The two linked L-shaped buildings will bring more than 2,000 students, faculty and staff to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus when it is completed in 2017, and will allow UB to expand its medical school class size from 144 to 180 students, while adding 100 new physicians and scientists to its faculty roster. That will generate both short-term and long-term benefits for the city through increased population density downtown, along with new development opportunities for housing, retail, office space, incubators and research facilities, officials said.