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Former Millard Fillmore Gates Circle Hospital may be imploded

The hospital tower that dominates Gates Circle may be taken down in a single dramatic event this summer, rather than a long and slow process over weeks or months.

Think implosion.

“There’s only two ways to take buildings apart. Either you pick them apart or you blow them up,” said Marc Romanowski, an attorney for the developer of the property. “Picking them apart is better for smaller buildings. ... Taller buildings are better to implode.”

Officials with TM Montante Development, which owns the property, haven’t decided on how to bring down the 10-story main building of the former Millard Fillmore Hospital.

But they “think it will be heading most likely to implosion,” Romanowski told the Buffalo Planning Board on Tuesday morning .

Implosions are relatively rare in Buffalo and typically draw large crowds. The last notable local implosion occurred at least eight years ago.

That’s when Ciminelli Real Estate Corp. demolished 50 High St. in May 2007, to start the process that eventually led to the building of Conventus and Oishei Children’s Hospital.

Other notable implosions include:

• The old Roswell Park Cancer Institute hospital building in downtown Buffalo in 2000.

• The grain mill on Military Road in Town of Tonawanda, also in 2000.

• The former Ford Hotel at 210 Delaware Ave., in 1999. That led to what is now the Hampton Inn & Suites.

But Montante officials would not discuss what demolition of the former hospital tower might entail, until a firm decision is made.

“It’s by no way a done deal at this point,” said Byron DeLuke, spokesman for Montante Construction.

An implosion also would be a contrast to the piece-by-piece approach used to raze two other buildings on the Gates Circle campus.

The Planning Board on Tuesday gave its approval for Montante to take down the five-story Medical Services Building behind the tower using the more gradual approach. That step received a go-ahead last week from the city Preservation Board.

With the piecemeal method, TM Montante and its contractors are first doing interior asbestos removal and other abatement from the top down, before demolishing the interior walls and then starting to take the entire building structure down with a “high-reach machine.” The developer will then truck most of the debris off-site via Delaware Avenue, and take it to a landfill in Niagara Falls.

Dust will be minimized by using water treatment on the building during demolition. Some of the materials, such as concrete, will also be recycled after cleanup and used to refill the site’s old foundations. That will reduce the need to transport it and create more traffic.

The firm is using the same method for the demolition of the separate power plant building, which is already underway. Officials haven’t made any decisions about the additional buildings on the property, Romanowski said.

TM Montante, which purchased the property at 3 Gates Circle from Kaleida Health after the hospital closed, plans to convert the 6.8-acre complex into a new mixed-use residential, senior-living, retail and commercial neighborhood. It is partnering with Episcopal Church Home & Affiliates’ Canterbury Woods on the $63 million project.

The plan is still undergoing a mandatory environmental review, with a full report expected in May, before the developer comes to the Planning Board for any other demolition requests.

So far, no site plans have been submitted for review or approval for the actual construction, but Romanowski predicted city planners will get their first look at the first phase, starting with Canterbury Woods, in July.

“As we get to the individual site plans, we’ll get to the nitty-gritty of each individual project,” he said.