Top city officials visualize a spinoff from the projected medical corridor that could embrace redevelopment of parts of the Fruit Belt and extend west toward Allentown.
Community Development Commissioner Joseph E. Ryan told the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency on Thursday that business and residential spinoff could stretch up Main Street, with intersecting nodes to the east and west, as far as the University at Buffalo South Campus and its medical school.
As a result, the initial projection for a medical concentration in the High Street area is flexible enough so that it could embrace medical and scientific clusters from Goodell Street to Bailey Avenue, he said.
"It was the mayor's idea," Ryan said in an interview after the meeting.
The commissioner said Mayor Anthony M. Masiello and other officials first grasped the larger potential of a planned medical corridor, starting around High Street hospitals, when they started enumerating institutions on Main Street with science or research links. For a start, they included UB, Canisius College and Sisters Hospital, located near Metro transit stations.
"We realized, 'Let's leave it without boundaries,' " he said. "It could be as wide as into Allentown. We aren't sure how wide it is."
Ryan said a future step is a land-use plan and a strategy to allow medical-related businesses interested in locating near the hospital center to do so. He foresees low- and moderate-priced housing for hospital and other employees in a revitalized Fruit Belt and for higher-paid professionals toward Allentown.
"What I am visualizing is opportunity," said Ryan. "The people have to define how far we go and what the priorities are. We don't want to leave anybody out or preclude other positive things from happening."
Community groups, such as the Allentown Association and Fruit Belt Task Force, can participate, he said.
A possible offshoot might be new life for abandoned buildings on Main Street below Allen Street, where the Community Development Department has recently taken title to six such buildings, he said.
At Thursday's meeting, the agency approved $50,000 to hire the Niagara Consulting Group, headed by Richard T. Reinhard, as a consultant on what needs to be done to carry out the project. He will be based in Roswell Park Cancer Institute.
Reinhard, Masiello's former chief of staff and the one-time director of Buffalo Place, is chief operating officer of the company named to redevelop downtown Niagara Falls.
On another front, Ryan won approval to use the redeveloper of 210 Delaware Ave. to arrive at benchmarks for possible subsidies for converting other downtown buildings into commercial space and housing.
Four developers have approached Community Development about their desire to create apartments above stores in downtown buildings of four to six stories, said Ryan, who declined to disclose the developers or pinpoint locations.
Two have buildings in the historic district and all are looking at 30 to 60 good-size residential units above commercial space, he said. Two of the buildings are at least 100 years old.
Ryan said the aim is to establish benchmarks for the likely cost per square foot of redeveloping certain types of old buildings into housing.
He said a typical question for the city might be: "If rents are going to support only $1 per square foot, and costs are going to be $1.15, are we willing to provide 15 cents a square foot?"
The $20,000 grant will be awarded to First Amherst Development, the redeveloper of the Delaware Avenue site, for a subcontract with Mussachio Architects, Williamsville, for the study.
The agency tabled a request from Buffalo Prep, 3435 Main St., for $4,229 toward staffing costs.