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10 years later, little uproar over move The relocation of Women's & Children's Hospital no longer stirs vehement objection from its neighbors.

A decade ago, there were cries of outrage from doctors, community leaders and neighbors over plans to move Buffalo's Children's Hospital out of the Elmwood Village.

Yet on Tuesday, only one person spoke at a public hearing related to the institution's planned move to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

And he wasn't even opposed to it.

As Kaleida Health moves forward with plans to relocate Women & Children's Hospital, far fewer people are vocally opposing the move this time around.

"There's definitely a change in mindset and attitude," said Niagara Council Member Daniel A. Rivera.

After years of disputes -- including those over a helipad and other proposed expansions -- and concerns over things like parking and traffic, attitudes have changed, according to the city lawmaker and two area block club representatives.

No one is saying they are happy to see the hospital leave the neighborhood, and there are concerns about both the potential economic fallout for nearby businesses and the eventual outcome for the hospital complex.

But the burgeoning downtown medical campus where the hospital is heading is now much more than just a concept, as it was years ago.

"I think moving is a great opportunity for them, so long as we're not left with a shuttered building," said Ellen Malone, unofficial head of a group of homeowners on the section of Hodge Avenue closest to the hospital, between Elmwood and Delaware avenues.

It was February 1999 when the idea of building a new Children's Hospital first publicly surfaced. In June 2000, a panel formed to study the issue recommended the Bryant Street facility be abandoned.

The potential move was supposedly put on hold after an announcement in December 2001, even though officials said at the time that the rationale for moving still existed.

But the push to move continued into the next year, when relocation plans were dropped after community opposition.

Then came two events that pushed the hospital and some neighbors apart:

A fight with neighbors over a proposed helipad, which was eventually constructed in 2005.

The announcement in 2007 of $102 million in reconstruction projects, including a new outpatient center on Hodge Street. That proposal called for the demolition of four homes on Hodge, as well as the addition of parking spaces on Hodge and West Utica Street.

Through the years, many quality-of-life issues arose, including parking problems and traffic concerns, that people grew tired of dealing with, Rivera said. He added that it is strange how different the level of concern is this time.

Also playing a part in the shift in attitudes, he said, are the poor conditions of some hospital complex structures as well as agreements with the hospital that neighbors felt weren't honored.

Also different now is the part played by the hospital's doctors. Before, the doctors were organized against the move; since then, they have been made a part of the planning process for it.

Hospital officials have wanted to update their facilities in order to increase efficiency, as well as to provide improved services.

For Robert Pederson, head of the Atlantic-West Utica Block Club, one reason for the diminished outpouring of public concern is that some people are fed up with all the fighting.

"I was sick of fighting with them," said Pederson, pointing to several years of acrimony over the planned outpatient center, which he said "wore people down."

Pederson, who has reviewed the draft environmental impact statement, said he didn't attend the hearing because he plans to submit written comments.

"I'm not hearing anything that I'm concerned about, in general," he said.

At Tuesday's hearing, Kaleida attorney Marc A. Romanowski said the new facility planned on Ellicott Street, between High and Goodrich streets, would be about 400,000 square feet, smaller than the approximately 580,000-square-foot existing hospital.

If Kaleida is able to get the financing it needs, construction could start next year and be completed in 2015, Romanowski said.

There are currently no plans for the Bryant Street campus, but Kaleida is hiring a consultant and will bring in local developers to talk about what might be done with the property.

When told only one person spoke at Tuesday's public hearing, both Pederson and Malone questioned the level of notice provided to the community.

The 8:30 a.m. start time didn't help, either, considering people have jobs to get to, Malone said.

"They've become a better neighbor over the years," Malone said about the hospital, "and we hope that they continue to be a good neighbors."

Neither a hospital spokesman nor outgoing Elmwood Village Association Executive Director Justin Azzarella could be reached to comment Tuesday.

Written comments on the draft environmental impact statement for the project are being accepted by the Planning Board through March 23.

email: abesecker@buffnews.com