But for the inclusion of soccer fields, the plan for redeveloping Women & Children’s Hospital on Bryant Street falls largely into familiar territory: residential units, retail space, a hotel, a second location for Tapestry Charter School, a new daycare center, underground parking and green spaces.
In this case, though, familiar doesn’t mean anything but good. Neighbors have some concerns and some questions need to be answered, but the main point is that Kaleida Health has done admirable work in ensuring that the hospital doesn’t become a vacant and deteriorating eyesore when it decamps for the new John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital, now gestating on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
That has been the major concern, just as it was when Kaleida closed Millard Fillmore Hospital at Gates Circle in 2011. That was Kaleida’s first run at repurposing space it vacated. A plan to put a veterinary school there collapsed and it took some time to find an alternative use. Eventually, a plan took shape to build high-end senior housing there along with apartment, townhouse and condominium units, retail or office space, a fitness facility and a grocery store.
Kaleida learned from that effort, enough that the work of finding a new use for Women & Children’s Hospital went more smoothly. Like the hospital at Gates Circle, Women & Children’s is at a key location – the intersection of Elmwood Avenue and Bryant Street – and it was crucial to ensure that the old and sprawling landmark didn’t become a neighborhood eyesore.
It is no coincidence that the $122 million project, called QueensLight, will feature residential space. Urban living is increasingly attractive, especially to millennials and empty nesters. And, to some extent, it is a self-sustaining trend: people move in, which draws businesses and attractions to serve them, which in turn attracts more people. It’s as virtuous a cycle as Buffalo has seen in decades.
Among the most intriguing aspects of the project is the plan for indoor and outdoor soccer facilities. It’s a creative and attractive idea, but one that also has prompted concerns from some neighbors who worry about noise, nighttime lighting and parking.
The fears are certainly legitimate and deserve the attention of project planners and city officials. But simply by definition, the area is going to change. When a prominent, long-established hospital moves out, that alone creates change and that create stress.
The question needs to be how incorporate the coming changes to best serve the greatest number of residents, especially those in the Elmwood Village. Kaleida has made a good start on that.