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'Great project' is how city planner reacts to briefing on surgery center

City planners were briefed Tuesday on an $80 million outpatient surgery center that developers want to build on Main Street.

The project proposed on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus would be one of the most ambitious developments on Main Street in decades, planners confirmed Tuesday.

Developers hope to start work on the seven-story structure within three months. If all goes as planned, tenants will occupy the complex by late 2012.

The 350,000-square-foot medical building on Main between High and Goodrich streets would include a Women & Children's Hospital outpatient surgery center.

"I think it's a great project," said Planning Board Chairman James K. Morrell after a meeting with architects, attorneys and other development officials in City Hall.

Morrell said the project would produce a number of benefits. For starters, he said, the complex would be developed and operated by Ciminelli Real Estate Corp., bringing significant private investment to the medical campus.

"It will also bring development out to Main Street, integrating it with public transit. I think it's very important," said Morrell, who is also service planning manager for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority.

One concept being explored would link below-ground parking at the new complex to Metro Rail's Allen Street platform, which ends at High Street. Morrell said the concept would allow public transit users to get off Metro Rail and enter the complex's basement without having to go outside.

"But there's a lot of work to be done in terms of logistics," Morrell acknowledged.

Ciminelli Vice President J. Timothy Vaeth also told the board that the complex would include other components that would promote carpooling and accommodate both pedestrians and bicyclists. More details will be presented within a month or so, after planners prepare environmental studies.

Public comments can be sent to the Planning Board through Jan. 7 as part of the environmental review. Thus far, Morrell said board members have heard only positive things from residents about the project.

The surgery center would occupy about one-quarter of the building and is viewed as the first step toward the eventual move of Women & Children's Hospital from Bryant Street to the medical campus.

The remaining space will be tailored to cater to an assortment of doctors. A diagnostic imaging center would also be situated in the complex, which is being designed by Kideney Architects of Amherst. The complex will feature eye-grabbing glass panels and will serve as a "gateway" project for the medical campus, project planners said.

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com

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