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UB hopes to return South Campus to E.B. Green’s vision

A new medical school downtown will play a big role in the ongoing transformation of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

But it’s also going to trigger some dramatic changes up the road on the University at Buffalo’s historic South Campus on Main Street. That is where UB is trying to recapture that classic campus character laid out by renowned architect E.B. Green decades ago.

UB made a splash last week when it unveiled designs for its new School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, but lost in the excitement were details about what’s in store for the South Campus after the medical school relocates downtown in 2016.

“Some of the buildings will have new occupants,” UB President Satish Tripathi said. “A couple of buildings on the South Campus are pretty old and will be demolished.”

More specifically, the sprawling, 1950s-era complex that currently houses the medical school – Cary, Farber and Sherman halls – will be knocked down, said Laura Hubbard, UB’s vice president for finance and administration.

Razing those three buildings would cost an estimated $12.5 million, she said, with demolition projected for the 2019-20 fiscal year – assuming UB has the money.

Meanwhile, two historic buildings on the South Campus – Parker and Townsend halls – will be renovated for the School of Social Work and the Graduate School of Education, both of which will move to the Main Street campus from the North Campus in Amherst, she said.

But renovating and relocating to Parker, built in 1945, and Townsend, built in 1903, would cost about $91 million, she said.

The university doesn’t have the money right now.

UB would like money set aside so it can begin work at the South Campus once the medical school is relocated, but the capital funding requested for the project wasn’t included in this year’s state budget, Hubbard said.

“We are hopeful that we might receive the funding for the Parker-Townsend projects in next year’s funding cycle,” Hubbard said, “at least to begin the design process.”

Still, university officials point to these moves – as well as more proposed for the future – in response to concerns that UB is deserting the South Campus.

In fact, these initial changes are part of a sequence of South Campus renovations and maneuvers that will be phased in over a period of years – or even decades, according to the master plan adopted by UB several years ago.

Those changes would include other health fields eventually joining the medical school downtown and the Law School and pieces of the School of Management one day moving from Amherst to the South Campus.

“The plan for South Campus is to ultimately be a center of professional schools and interdisciplinary studies,” Hubbard said.

In the process, UB is intent on restoring the appearance of the historic Main Street campus to its original 1930s design.

“It will actually bring the campus back to the E.B. Green campus – a beautiful campus,” Tripathi said.

The South Campus is built on the former grounds of the Erie County Almshouse, which UB acquired from the county in 1909.

In 1930, UB commissioned the firm E.B. Green & Son to do a campus master plan.

“The design he did was really a classic campus – great lawns, quads and somewhat more of a naturalized campus around the perimeter,” said Robert Shibley, dean of the School of Architecture and Planning.

UB used the E.B. Green plan to guide campus development for more than 20 years, constructing a series of stately stone buildings, expansive lawns and intimate quadrangles, according to the UB planning report.

But with the post-World War II boom on campus, UB broke from the E.B. Green plan during the 1950s with construction of the health-sciences complex: Cary, Farber, Sherman.

That trend continued during the 1960s, as enrollment grew and UB used campus open space to erect “temporary” prefabricated classroom and office buildings that still stand today.

But Green’s vision for the South Campus is still apparent – the quads, the continuous loop road – and UB already has begun working to restore it.

Shibley points to major makeovers under way at Crosby Hall, built in 1931, and at Hayes Hall, which is known for its iconic clock tower. That project includes the demolition of some of the temporary trailerlike annexes that clutter Green’s great lawn.

“There’s never been an intention at UB to abandon South,” Shibley said.

News Staff Reporter Stephen T. Watson contributed to this report. email: