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Medical Campus moves closer to being downtown hub

The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus has made slow but steady progress over the years toward the goal of becoming a downtown hub of medical care, research and education. But 2013 promises to make slow and steady a thing of the past.

A slew of projects are expected to get under way this year that will focus public attention and mark a significant turning point in developing the medical corridor.

There are now about 12,000 people working on the campus. By 2016, as the projects proceed, employment is expected to grow to 17,000 said Matthew Enstice, president and chief executive officer of Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus Inc., the umbrella organization created in 2001 by the institutions located in it.

Among the key initiatives to look for:

• The University at Buffalo last year purchased land at 960 Washington St. for $1.2 million, the first of three parcels it is assembling in the area of Main and High streets for construction of a new medical school. The university was expected to buy the two additional parcels for the project by late January.

UB plans to relocate the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences from its South Campus to the downtown Medical Campus, starting this fall in a project estimated to cost $375 million. Discussions continue between UB and the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority regarding the Main-Allen Metro Station, which the university would like to incorporate into the medical school building.

UB selected the international architectural firm of HOK – Helmuth, Obata & Kassabaum – to lead the building design, which calls for more than a half-million square feet of space. It’s expected that a design will be unveiled in the next few months, said John Della Contrada, a UB spokesman.

• Women & Children’s Hospital is moving from its longtime Bryant Street location in the Elmwood Village to the Medical Campus. Groundbreaking for the new facility, which will be renamed the John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital, is expected in the spring and completion in early 2016.

The 10-floor hospital will include a range of specialized pediatric services and a family resource center. A Women’s Pavilion will house labor and delivery, postpartum care, the regional perinatal center for high-risk pregnancies and a women’s health center for prenatal and gynecological care.

In addition, officials announced last year that Kaleida Health, which operates the pediatric hospital, and Roswell Park Cancer Institute will combine services they now provide in separate locations to care for young patients with cancer and blood diseases on one floor of the hospital.

The $200 million building will go up at the corner of Ellicott and High streets, across from, and connected by a walkway to, the Buffalo General Medical Center.

“The children’s hospital is a huge move,” Enstice said. “But the medical school is the critical mass that will be the tipping point for the campus.”

• Ciminelli Real Estate Corp. is expected to begin construction soon on a medical office building on the block bounded by Main, High, Ellicott and Goodrich streets.

The major tenants will include doctors associated with the UB medical group known as UBMD and many services connected to the new children’s hospital, which will abut the office building.

The $98 million building is planned to be just less than 300,000 square feet over six floors, but it could grow to seven floors, depending on interest from additional tenants, officials have said. Completion of the building, which will include two levels of underground parking for 318 vehicles, is scheduled for spring 2015.

The pediatric outpatient surgery center in the new children’s hospital will use space in the Ciminelli building, which will act as the “front door” of the surgery center. The second and third floors of the building will connect seamlessly to the pediatric hospital.

Kaleida Health also will use the Ciminelli building for a number of other children’s services, including a pharmacy, a laboratory and clinics, including dialysis, therapy infusion and the Robert Warner Rehabilitation Center.

• Roswell Park Cancer Institute announced last year that it had raised enough money to begin work this year on a major addition to the cancer center – an 11-story Clinical Sciences Center at Michigan Avenue and Carlton Street, abutting the cancer center’s main hospital building.

Services in the new building will include a breast care center, an expanded chemotherapy infusion clinic, a clinic for adolescents and young adults, patient education programs and office space for physicians and researchers. Relocation of some services to the new Clinical Sciences Center also will allow for renovation and expansion of other services in the main building.

• Medical Campus officials plan to redevelop the trademark portion of the massive Trico Complex at Ellicott and Goodell streets and to remove the remaining four buildings to build a 250,000-square-foot expansion of the Innovation Center, a biomedical business incubator.

The decision, which still requires reviews by city boards and is the subject of debate among preservationists, reversed a plan to tear down more of the city block-sized complex.

Enstice said the current Innovation Center has 35 companies and is expected to be full by the end of March.

• Albany Molecular Research, an Albany-based drug company, is supposed to open a research center and labs on the campus. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo late last year announced the deal, saying the state is putting $50 million toward the project, mostly to buy new equipment.

Officials contend the investment in infrastructure tied to the new AMRI lab will spark $200 million of unspecified private investment and lead to 250 jobs overall over time – not all of them at Albany Molecular Research, a 21-year-old company based in the Albany area that researches and produces drugs on a contract basis.

Enstice said the governor’s commitment is a major advancement for the campus and, because most of the money will go toward upgrading public institutions, the investment will benefit the community regardless of AMRI’s fortunes. He also said AMRI provides a service – contract drug manufacturing – that existing startups on the campus say is needed.

“We’re putting the infrastructure in place to lure companies,” he said.

One other key issue on the Medical Campus that often gets overshadowed by the construction is jobs for the people who live nearby.

Among other things, Enstice said, Medical Campus officials have developed a database of 4,000 residents and plan to develop a centralized office where individuals can go to see what job opportunities are available at all the institutions within the campus boundaries.