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Implosion of main hospital tower at Gates Circle could draw a big crowd

The Oct. 3 implosion of the former Millard Fillmore Hospital is becoming a must-see event.

As of Monday – just four days after a company announcement – 1,391 people indicated on Facebook that they plan to go to Gates Circle to watch the 11-story main tower building reduced to a billowing cloud of dust.

“We’re extremely, disproportionately excited about the implosion,” said Elizabeth Eisenhauer, who plans to watch the spectacle with husband Govindan and daughter Asha. “We have on occasion been known as a family to view lengthy YouTube videos of buildings imploding, because it’s such a cool thing to watch. To see such an extreme thing live would be remarkable.”

Ben Roberts plans to watch the rare event out of “pure curiosity.”

“It’ll be great to say I was there when it came down,” Roberts said. “It’s also an opportunity to see something that may not be replicated in a while, given our newfound proclivity to save historic buildings.”

The former hospital is being detonated to make way for a $150 million residential and retail project by TJ Montante Development.

The controlled collapse – which will take only seconds – will be conducted by Ontario Specialty Contracting, a Buffalo demolition company. The company took down the 100,000-square-foot medical office building at 50 High St. in 2007, paving the way for the new $110 million Conventus building.

“It’s not every day you get to see things blown up,” said Constance McEwen, who plans to watch it from the 10th floor of a nearby apartment building. “It’s just something different happening, and it’s a huge building that I pass every day that is no longer going to be there.”

Elissa Banas watched the Ford Hotel come down in 1999. Its location at Delaware Avenue and Chippewa Street is now a Hampton Inn parking lot. She and her husband, William, were in their backyard on nearby Cary Street, where they lived at the time.

“It was pretty spectacular to see, especially up close,” Banas said. “The big thing was the cloud afterward. When the building went down, a huge amount of dust came toward us, but the wind blew it to Delaware.

“Spot Coffee had a couple of inches over it. It was a big, big mess,” she said.

Banas, who has asthma, plans to watch with an air quality mask. Eisenhauer and her family also plan to wear masks that filter the air.

“I will look at what the wind reaction is that day and try to position us as safely as possible,” Eisenhauer said.

But if I inhale a little dust, I don’t think it’s gonna kill me – at least not right away,” she laughed.