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Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus offers update about growth, neighborhood impact

As hundreds of millions of dollars are poured into the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, and as massive clinical and academic buildings soar on the downtown medical corridor, campus officials want to make sure that the benefits of this economic activity extend into the surrounding neighborhoods.

The Medical Campus is preparing for 5,000 additional workers to move onto the campus in the next two years by addressing its transportation and parking needs, improving recruiting of city residents for jobs at campus institutions and building a vibrant and sustainable on-campus community.

Top campus officials provided an update on their efforts Tuesday morning in a presentation to neighborhood and campus stakeholders that recapped the growth of the medical corridor and the challenges that expansion has generated. The talk drew some skeptical questions about how much progress the organization that oversees the campus has made in building bridges to the Fruit Belt and Allentown communities and weaning campus employees off a reliance on their personal vehicles for their daily commute.

Highlights of the presentation by William L. Joyce, chairman of the Medical Campus, and Matthew K. Enstice, its president and CEO, in the dig co-working space in the Thomas R. Beecher Jr. Innovation Center included:

• Employment on the campus will rise from 7,000 in 2002 to 17,000 in 2017, when the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences moves to its new home on the campus and the new John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital opens. Total new investment on the campus will rise from $220 million in 2006 to a cumulative $1.4 billion by 2017, and total building space will double from 4.5 million square feet in 2002 to 9 million in 2017. Most of that investment is driven by government spending, Joyce acknowledged.

• The campus is seeking to build an ecosystem of small businesses through the Innovation Center, the co-working space and programs meant to help entrepreneurs bring their ideas to the marketplace. Joyce said that about 150 companies, some as small as one person, have set up shop on the campus. There also are local and national companies that are interested in moving onto the campus to be closer to the biotech research taking place, he said.

• Enstice said the campus will build only 900 net new parking spaces, and is planning to work with commuters and their employers to promote biking, carpooling, car-sharing, riding Metro Rail and other alternatives to driving personal vehicles to work. However, when a member of the audience asked Enstice how he made it to his Innovation Center office that morning, Enstice acknowledged that he drove his car.

• Workforce-development efforts are focusing on the Fruit Belt, Allentown and downtown neighborhoods, with a particular emphasis on connecting people who live within a one-mile radius of the campus with jobs at the hospitals and research centers there. When Sydney Brown, secretary of the Black Chamber of Commerce of Western New York, asked how many of the campus’ current workers live within a mile of the campus, and whether the campus has targets for employing neighborhood residents, Joyce and Enstice said they would need to follow up with her to get her an answer.

• The Medical Campus has worked to build a more efficient electric grid in the downtown medical corridor, to seek out sustainable energy sources and to experiment with innovations such as electric car-charging stations. In one example offered by Enstice, the campus is testing streetlights with built-in solar panels, wind turbines and batteries that are not connected to the grid and are entirely self-sufficient. Further, Enstice said, officials are working with Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper to comprehensively study water needs and water use on the campus.