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AIDS agency drops plans to move, will expand facility on Elmwood Ave.

AIDS Community Services is moving ahead with its grand expansion but at a new, or in this case, old location -- the historic Roanoke Hotel.

Instead of moving to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, the non-profit group is staying put and building an addition to its home on South Elmwood Avenue near Chippewa Street.

Plans changed after federal budget constraints put the kibosh on $1.5 million in funding for a new building on High Street.

"This is really what we always wanted to do," said Christopher Voltz, director of marketing and special projects. "It's awful that we have to grow but significant that we can grow."

The organization, whose caseload and medical practice have almost doubled in two years, will buy the former Roanoke and build a two- or three-story addition behind it.

The agency's ambitious expansion plans, which include an entry into research, remain unchanged. The group is partnering with the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and expects to forge other research relationships.

Until now, the organization's mission was limited to education, treatment and support services, with a caseload of more 1,000 people across Western New York.

Founded in 1983, when the first HIV/AIDS cases were documented here, AIDS Community Services grew into a major health care provider after it set up operations in the Roanoke in 1996.

"We're bursting at the seams," Voltz said.

When the $7 million project is complete, the new "Evergreen Center" is expected to serve as a national model for AIDS organizations. The facility will house a research center and an adult day care program as well as double the size of the region's first HIV-specific medical practice. Once completed, more than 150 people will work there.

The building, which the organization now leases, will be owned by a partnership between AIDS Community Services and developer Michael Joseph.

Joseph, who also owns the Medical Campus site, said he has not come up with a Plan B for his vacant property. A derelict 10-story building was torn down last year.

"It's a shovel-ready site next to the Medical Campus," Joseph said. "I will sit tight and weigh other possibilities."
Buffalo News Reporter Sharon Linstedt contributed to this story.
e-mail: pfairbanks@buffnews.com1

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