The University at Buffalo today unveiled a plan to be a better neighbor to its surrounding South Campus community by giving parts of the campus a face lift, improving security and starting a project to renovate and sell nearby homes.
UB's plan calls for spending $100 million over the next 10 years to expand its outpatient medical services, improve landscaping and signs and renovate existing dormitories into apartment-style units for graduate and medical students.
Aging homes around the campus -- in Buffalo, the Town of Tonawanda and Amherst -- will get a boost from a real estate development corporation that intends to buy, rehabilitate, finance and sell houses to middle-income residents.
Residents also should see the creation of a regional community policing center on the South Campus to coordinate security in the area and an expansion of educational programs for the community.
"As the nexus of city and suburb, UB's South Campus has the potential to inspire cooperation, dynamic growth and development of stable businesses and residences," UB President William R. Greiner said.
Little of the money to accomplish the plan's goals exists now.
UB has requested $18 million from the state for a Comprehensive Health Sciences Education Center. Greiner said he is hopeful the state will release planning money this fiscal year for the building, which would concentrate the university's outpatient health-care services in one location on the campus.
In addition, Fleet Bank has contributed $30,000 to study the neighborhood's housing market as part of the proposed real estate development corporation. More than a dozen other local businesses, including supermarkets, banks and advertising agencies, have expressed interest in the project.
"We are very excited by the response because you can see the disinvestment that has occurred in the neighborhood," said Danis Joyce Gehl, associate project director of the University Community Initiative, the name of the collaborative community effort by UB, the city and Amherst.
UB has changed over the last 25 years, leading to changes in the neighborhood. The South Campus no longer serves as the focal point of undergraduate academic and social life. Undergraduates, for the most part, now go to classes on the North Campus in Amherst.
The South Campus houses health-sciences education and research facilities, including a new, $56 million medical research building attached to the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
The community around the South Campus also has changed, losing population and businesses.
The new plan is part of an attempt by UB officials to dispel fears that the university is neglecting the South Campus in favor of the North Campus.
"It's important that the university tell the people of Western New York that the South Campus is as much a part of the university as the North Campus," said Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, D-Buffalo. University Council Member Kevin J. Helfer offered a similar assessment.
"A lot of it is concept, and the hard dollars will have to follow. But UB is sending a huge message that it is reinvesting in the campus and the community," he said.
He added that it's hoped both UB and the city will kick in money to start the real estate corporation and attract financial support from area businesses.
On-campus projects include development of a research park to attract health-related companies to some of the open areas on the 145-acre South Campus. Plans also call for repaving four parking lots, erecting new fences on Winspear Avenue near Bailey Avenue, installing and repairing sidewalks along the perimeter of the campus and studying campus signs.
UB also wants to renovate Beck Hall to house the Institute for Local Governance and Regional Growth and renovate dormitories for graduate students, a project that would increase the number of students living on the South Campus by 20 percent.
The projects dovetail with the city's redevelopment plans for the Main-LaSalle area and the recent private renovation work at University Plaza on Main Street.
Officials expressed hope that the city can make landscaping improvements and develop design standards for Main Street and Bailey Avenue.
"The heart of this is the capital investment in the campus. It's a statement that we are not abandoning the city," Greiner said. "We're trying to present a more friendly, open face to the neighborhood."
The off-campus initiative consists of three components:
Housing -- The proposed real estate corporation intends to buy, renovate and sell 120 homes over three years once it starts operation, said Ms. Gehl.
What separates it from similar housing efforts, she said, is that the company will target middle-income, upwardly mobile residents, as well as graduate students. In addition, the program will seek to make improvements a block at a time, rather than home by home.
For instance, UB officials suggested that the company might build two homes on a block while providing incentives to other residents to make renovations.
The corporation would concentrate on two areas -- the neighborhood closest to the campus and bisected by Main Street, and then the neighborhood on the southern edge of the campus and bounded by Bailey Avenue, East Delavan Avenue, Eggert Road and the Kensington Expressway.
Officials said the areas were chosen based on the capacity of the housing to attract a range of income groups, available amenities and closeness to current city development projects.
"You want to leverage against investments already going on," said Ms. Gehl.
Policing -- UB officials said reported crimes in the university community declined 9 percent between 1990 and 1995, despite a perception that crime has increased. UB's plan calls for increasing the perception of safety and security as well as further reducing crime.
Officials envision a regional "policing resource center" in UB's Allen Hall that would increase the visible police presence and improve police relations with residents and business owners.
Education -- UB officials said many activities for elementary and secondary students and adult education and training programs already are available on the South Campus. They expressed hope that some existing programs would be expanded and others added.