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New UB Medical School is designed to be an integral part of its community

The rapidly changing landscape of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus was filled in a bit more last week, and when it’s complete it should rival in design and layout any medical complex in the country.

As outlined in The News, the University at Buffalo unveiled the design for its new Medical School. When it opens in 2016, it will serve as both an entrance into the ever-expanding Medical Campus and a bridge to the nearby community.

The expansive, $375-million, seven-story Medical School is shaped like two L’s joined by a six-story atrium. It will be built at the corner of Main and High streets and will have many more students and faculty than it did at its old home on the UB South Campus.

The new facility will encourage students and employees to become a part of the surrounding neighborhoods, which are getting increased attention as places to live, work and play. Allentown has long been thought of as a place for artists and professionals. But the other side of Main Street is now getting well-deserved attention.

The university has reached out to community leaders and residents to keep them updated on its plans. Nature being what it is, not everyone has been or will be pleased with the expansion. That can’t be helped, but, so far, UB appears to be making a credible effort to integrate the Medical School into the larger community.

Robert Shibley, dean of UB’s School of Architecture and Planning, said the new Medical School is designed to be a “gateway” to Allentown, the Medical Campus and downtown. Most medical schools are directly linked to hospitals, and UB’s move will put its students and faculty in the same footprint as Buffalo General Medical Center, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Gates Vascular Institute, UB’s Clinical and Translational Research Center and the John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital.

Medical School enrollment will increase from about 140 students in each of its four classes to 180 students by 2020, and 130 additional faculty will join the 720 already on board.

Planners hope some students and employees will move into the surrounding neighborhoods, and bicycle or walk to the school. A new Allen/Medical Campus Metro Rail station will be part of the Medical School building, designed to encourage contacts between the Medical Campus and the neighborhoods.

With parking at a premium, the innovative approach should also encourage students and workers to use public transit. The building itself deliberately will not have a full-service restaurant as a way to get people to patronize nearby businesses.

Buffalo stands to reap enormous benefits from UB’s latest contribution to the Medical Campus.