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Medical school list pared to five

Five firms will compete to design and build the University at Buffalo's new School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences proposed for Main and High streets at the edge of downtown.

The five firms were introduced Thursday at the Greatbatch Pavilion of the Darwin Martin House, where university officials described to architects what UB is looking for in a new $375 million medical school.

"This whole competition is an attempt to elevate the dialogue about the quality of the architecture," said Robert Shibley, dean of UB's School of Architecture and Planning, who is directing the competition. "We want to do this in the very best possible way."

In describing the project, UB officials released a few new details about the targeted property at Main and High streets. The site currently includes an HSBC Bank branch, parking lot and the Allen-Medical Campus Metro Station.

UB is still working to acquire the land from property owners, Shibley said, but envisions a Phase I of the Medical School project to include 520,000 square feet of space within a 12-, nine-, or seven-story building at the site.

UB's preference, Shibley said, would be a seven-story building that would incorporate a more grand Metro station at Allen Street, but that's going to depend on the outcome of property negotiations. Plans also show a Phase II for the Medical School, but that would be another decade down the road.

"We want it to create a 'front door' to the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, emphasize its student-learning environment and emphasize the interdisciplinary collaboration between the school's academic departments," Shibley said.

A competition selection committee comprised of eight design and engineering professionals from the state and UB pared the 19 applicants down to a short list of five: Cannon Design; Diller Scofidio Renfro/Gensler; Grimshaw Architects; Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum; and Rafael Vinoly.

Interim UB Provost Bruce McCombe and Dr. John Canty, chief of the cardiovascular division, talked to the architects and got them up to speed on the university, its strategic plan and the relocation of the Medical School from the South Campus to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus with the help of $35 million in seed money from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

The competitors will take tours of the downtown and Main Street campuses today, then meet with the selection committee for a workshop.

The firms will present their proposals March 16 to 22. They will be publicly exhibited March 27 and 28. A final selection will be made March 29.

UB wants to begin construction of the new Medical School in September 2013 and complete the building by fall 2016.