As the Buffalo region continues to weave a new story line for itself, 2015 will bring new chapters to this tale of development and reinvention. ¶ The new year will bring stories that touch everything from business to the arts and education. ¶ Building will continue downtown, driven by major projects on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. ¶ Several of the city’s beloved arts venues are in for a makeover. ¶ And the city’s sports teams will continue to dominate headlines, with new ownership of the Buffalo Bills raising questions about the team’s management and calls for a new or rebuilt stadium. ¶ The new year also will mean addressing lingering problems, including those dogging the city schools, casinos and Love Canal contamination.
Here is a look at what is coming in 2015:
The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus will continue to make news, and the new year promises to bring several significant projects.
The drug discovery company Albany Molecular Research Inc. will move its research facility to the campus with funding from The Buffalo Billion. Construction also will move ahead on the Oishei Children’s Hospital, as well as the new University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
Along with the physical developments, Roswell Park Cancer Institute will hire a new chief executive officer to replace Donald L. Trump, who had held the post since 2007.
With the foreclosure of One Seneca Tower nearly complete, the new year likely will bring some resolution to questions about the future of downtown’s tallest building. The Buffalo Sabres already have moved some offices into the tower, and some speculate that team owners Terry and Kim Pegula may be interested in purchasing the entire building.
Along with development on the Medical Campus, construction will continue in other parts of downtown, including Larkinville and Canalside, where a new Marriott hotel will open later this year.
The complex at RiverBend that SolarCity is to occupy should be completed in the new year, although the solar panel production company is not expected to move in until 2016. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo last year announced the company will move its operations to Buffalo, creating roughly 3,000 jobs, and the facility is supposed to become the largest solar panel production site in the Western Hemisphere. State leaders said in September the facility should be up and running in 18 months.
Revamping arts venues
The expansion and renovation of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery will kick into high gear, as international architecture firms submit proposals and renderings. Those behind the expansion also will launch a major capital campaign to cover the costs.
As that project gets underway, Shea’s Performing Arts Center will complete its years-long restoration project.
Issues that dominated 2014 – including the Common Core, standardized testing and teacher evaluations – will continue to dominate headlines in 2015, as state lawmakers weigh whether to make adjustments in response to criticism of the way New York has rolled out changes.
That debate likely will be influenced by who is selected as the new state education commissioner to replace John King, who will start the New Year as a senior adviser for the U.S. Department of Education.
Meanwhile, two lawsuits that challenge the state’s teacher tenure laws will continue to wind their way through the courts.
City schools seek leader
The search for a new superintendent will be the most pressing issue for the Buffalo school board heading into the new year. It’s unclear just how long Interim Superintendent Donald A. Ogilvie will remain on the job, and board members have been slow in moving to find a permanent replacement.
With the clock ticking away his time on the job, Ogilvie has a few lingering tasks to finish. They include coming up with plans to overhaul four of the district’s lowest-performing schools. The district also will need to come up with a resolution to a Civil Rights complaint that challenged the admissions standards at its criteria-based schools.
County executive race
Highlighting the 2015 political calendar will be the contest for Erie County executive, in which Democratic incumbent Mark C. Poloncarz is expected to run for a second term.
The entire Erie County Legislature also faces voters in the new year, with backers of the Republican-aligned majority feeling they are well positioned to maintain control heading into this election cycle.
In its first year at the helm of the Legislature, the majority – four Republicans, a Conservative and an Independence Party member – has delivered on promises for a tax rate cut and more money for county road repairs, positioning them well heading into the campaign season.
Changes for the Bills
With new owners Terry and Kim Pegula at the helm of the Buffalo Bills, fans are wondering what the changing of the guard will mean for the team’s management and calls to build a new stadium.
Although Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park recently was updated with $130 million in renovations, the National Football League is pushing for a new stadium – and some want the team to build within the city limits.
The city’s Common Council has already started scouting for potential sites. Some that have been proposed include one that stretches along South Park Avenue from Louisiana Street to Ohio Street.
Love Canal resolution
The new year could bring major developments in the lawsuits pertaining to the community built on the old Love Canal site.
Although the site was cleaned through a federal remediation project, and new homes built on the site, some of those more recent home buyers have complained of health problems. More than a dozen lawsuits have been filed on behalf of these residents who say their health was damaged.
The lawsuits stem from a 2011 incident that involved toxic chemicals spewing from a city sewer line on Colvin Boulevard near the fenced-off Love Canal containment area where thousands of toxic chemicals are buried.
In all, there are 1,000 plaintiffs in the case, and the resolution of the case could carry a hefty cost for the City of Niagara Falls, which would be responsible for paying the damages.
Senecas’ court battle
The federal court battle over the legality of three Seneca Nation casinos may finally end with a decision in 2015.
A federal appeals court is scheduled to hear arguments in January in three lawsuits brought by a nonprofit citizens group trying to block casinos.
M&T merger uncertain
M&T Bank’s looming merger with Hudson City Bancorp remains in limbo, nearly three years after the $3.7 billion deal was struck.
The bank has spent more than $210 million to correct shortcomings flagged by federal banking regulators, namely the company’s systems for identifying and preventing money laundering. That investment has cut into the bank’s profits.
Although M&T executives say they have made progress, it has not been enough to win the blessings of regulators to complete the Hudson City deal. The two banks agreed to extend the deadline for completing the purchase to April, as costs continue to mount.
Corasanti in court
The Getzville physician involved in the wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of Alexandria Rice faces a civil jury trial in February.
The lawsuit stems from the 2011 hit and run accident that killed the 18-year-old high school student who was riding a longboard along Heim Road in Amherst.
Corasanti already served eight months in prison after being convicted of one misdemeanor charge of DWI. He also had been accused of manslaughter, but after a criminal trial during which the physician claimed he was unaware his car had hit a person, he was acquitted of the more serious charges.
The team’s finish to the season and luck will impact where the Sabres draft in June. The top two selections are coveted with mega-prospects Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel available.
The draft is not the only factor in General Manager Tim Murray’s rebuild. The progress of the young squad, including forward Zemgus Girgensons and defensemen Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov, should shed light on the franchise’s outlook for years to come.