The ideas unveiled for reusing Women & Children’s Hospital document Buffalo’s economic progress in the last several years. That the ideas were solicited at all demonstrates the commitment of Kaleida Health to the community and shows that it has learned from experience.
The four ideas show once again that Buffalo has become a hot location for developers, whose proposals add to the urban infill that makes cities thrive. The projects – by Sinatra & Co., Ciminelli Real Estate, Uniland Development and Ellicott Development – all offer something of value to the corner of Elmwood Avenue and Bryant Street.
That location is the longtime address of Women & Children’s Hospital. Soon it will close as the hospital transforms into the John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital, now taking shape on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
The natural worry about such a move is that it will leave a valuable city location with vacant buildings that will deteriorate and take the neighborhood with it. Fortunately for the city and the residents of the Elmwood Village, Kaleida has proven itself a responsible citizen and neighbor.
The corporation has experience in this kind of undertaking. When it decided to close Millard Fillmore Hospital at Gates Circle, it invited ideas from developers. This first effort at remaking an old hospital didn’t unfold perfectly, with the initial selection of a veterinary school eventually falling through. But Kaleida moved on and now TM Montante Development is working on a sprawling $150 million redevelopment project.
The lessons learned from that effort have been applied to the project to reuse the Women & Children’s Hospital site. Judging from the four proposals, this effort is likely to go more smoothly and add value to the city and the neighborhood.
Each plan includes residential space. Retail figures prominently, as well. Sinatra’s plan would provide a charter school and a Dash’s Market; Ciminelli’s, a soccer park and day care; Uniland’s, a boutique hotel and public park; and Ellicott’s, a hotel and school. Ellicott’s proposal is the only one that envisions reusing existing buildings.
With these proposals, the process to find a new use for the site has taken a big step forward, but it will be several months before a decision is made. The four plans will undergo review by Kaleida Health staff, and an independent financial evaluation by the accounting firm of Tronconi Segarra. Formal presentations are scheduled to be made to the Kaleida board, with a final selection by Kaleida expected in the middle of the year.
It’s a far cry from the first effort to close the hospital 16 years ago. Then, neighbors were alarmed and helped to block the plan. Today, acting as something akin to partners in the process, they are generally supportive. And, why not? With it, Buffalo will get a new, cutting-edge hospital on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, and the Elmwood Village will get a new development that adds to the urban fabric of the neighborhood and the city. This is a model for the future.