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'Medical mall' is latest in push to revive once-thriving Jefferson Avenue

East Side residents near Jefferson Avenue will have a bright new destination for basic health and preventive wellness care, if a proposal by two developers and a prominent medical entrepreneur comes to fruition.

Nick Sinatra and David Pawlik have partnered with ImmediateCare founder Dr. Greg Daniel to bring a new medical mall to a corner of Jefferson near Masten Park.

The proposed Jefferson Health and Wellness Center – which Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown announced Friday during his State of the City Address – would combine primary, pediatric, obstetric and other specialty medical practices with services such as behavioral care, nutrition and wellness. It would also have some form of acute care for more serious conditions that don't require an emergency room visit.

It may even include some fresh food and fitness, said Daniel, a self-described "fierce proponent" of Bikram yoga.

"What we want to focus on in the community here is wellness," Daniel said. "This is going to be great for this area."

Dr. Greg Daniel and his adopted daughter Chekina at their home in East Amherst Wednesday, April 22, 2015. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

The goal of the $4.5 million project at 1200 Jefferson is to improve the health of inner-city residents, prevent larger medical problems and ultimately reduce the need for them to visit hospitals.

"We don't want them to go to the hospital. We want to keep them healthy," Daniel said. "The hurdle individuals have is: What do I need to do to stay healthy?"

The partners want to build on recent momentum on the East Side, especially near Jefferson Avenue, where the city is making a push to revive what once was a thriving commercial and residential thoroughfare.

For example, Brown is seeking state assistance to pay for $21.6 million in infrastructure improvements along Jefferson. The city is also is investing alongside the state in a workforce development and industrial hub nearby in the Northland Corridor. Sinatra and Pawlik, in partnership with others, are participating in other development projects in the area, including Bellamy Commons and the Black Achievers Museum at 1490 Jefferson.

"This is another example of the private investment that is moving forward on Jefferson, on the East Side of Buffalo, and building upon the other investments that are being made in there," said Brendan Mehaffy, executive director of the city's Office of Strategic Planning.

Developer Nick Sinatra. (Derek Gee/News file photo)

The two developers also have joined with People Inc. for a $21 million housing development at 1160 Jefferson, with 84 units and retail space in two three-story buildings. That project is located just one block to the south of the proposed new health center.

A detailed site plan application for the People Inc. venture has been filed with the city Planning Board and will be reviewed at its next meeting on Feb. 27. If it's approved, Sinatra and Pawlik hope to start construction in June or July and finish by June 2018.

"Not many developers want to expand into this area. They want to build near the Medical Campus," Daniel said. "What you see here is a really serious and significant attempt to extend that benefit that's occurring downtown into the East Side."

Tentative plans by Silvestri Architects call for a three-story building with as much as 20,000 square feet on the northwest corner of Jefferson and Northampton, with a facade of dark brown brick, white and black stone, red wood and abundant glass.

"We want an aesthetically, pleasing, attractive facility," Daniels said. "When you look at what has been done in downtown Buffalo, a lot has been spent to develop facilities that speak to aesthetics."

Pawlik and Sinatra had originally planned for a 6,000-square-foot medical clinic as part of the People Inc. project. After working with Daniel, they decided they weren't thinking big enough.

A fuller proposal will likely be submitted to the city Planning Board in the coming months, with construction slated to begin later this year and finish by summer 2018.

The new facility represents the most recent example of efforts to reinvent how healthcare is provided, to both lower expenses and reach further into underserved neighborhoods.

"This area along Jefferson on the East Side is an underserved area," said Daniel, whose company, Nidus Development, is part of the development team with Sinatra & Company Realty and Pawlik's Creative Structures Services. "There are definitely ways we can bring health care into the community."

Sisters Hospital and Buffalo General Medical Center are not far away, but "those are facilities for sick care," Daniel said. The Erie County Health Department's Jesse Nash Health Center, he said, focuses more on treating illnesses for a poorer and more transitory population.

By contrast, Daniel described the Jefferson proposal as the only one-stop health and wellness center of its type in the area. Doctors would contract to spend some of their time at the new center, providing services under a new entity.

Daniel said he would enlist the support of various community organizations, including religious institutions, to spread the word and get local residents to use the services. He hopes to work with both the state and area health insurers to fund the venture through flat fees for providing care to a designated population group.

"This is another iteration in that trajectory to transform the way health care is delivered in Western New York," the doctor said. "This is going to be the first of its kind [locally]. There's nothing where it's all consolidated under one roof."

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