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Proposal to demolish Osmose property flagged by Preservation Board

A proposal to demolish part of the former Osmose Holdings complex on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus has drawn concerns from the Buffalo Preservation Board.

Board members this week flagged the need to investigate the property’s history, as well as the potential negative impact on Best Street.

The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, a non-profit organization that coordinates the institutions on the campus, bought the complex of buildings at 980 Ellicott St. last fall for $3.75 million with tentative plans to use it as a second innovation center for the campus. It has partnered with 780 Ellicott Partners LLC to request permission from the city demolish an L-shaped section of the property.

But Preservation Board Chairman Paul McDonnell said the board has to do its “due diligence” on the proposal after one board member raised the possibility this week that the building may have ties to famed architect E.B. Green.

“To remove this building would be harming the historic fabric,” McDonnell said Friday. “The portion that fronts on Best Street is the portion that everyone sees. Even beyond what E.B. Green may have done, removing this building will have a negative impact on the streetscape. The board has significant concerns.”

The advisory Preservation Board did not take action Thursday on the demolition proposal by the BNMC and contractor Ontario Specialty Contracting.

Medical campus President and CEO Matthew K. Enstice said in late January that the group still is exploring its options for the site, which he said requires some environmental cleanup. At the time it purchased the Osmose complex, Enstice had said the property was perfect because it required little renovation work, offered a mix of office and laboratory space and had room for about 200 parking spaces. It also is close to the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority’s Summer-Best Station.

The Preservation Board, Medical Campus officials and the demolition contractor will inspect the Osmose site next week. McDonnell said the board wants to determine if the structures in question have historic significance and then work with the owner to “determine if there are other ways of remediating the site without demolishing the structure.” Another option, he said, could be to recommend selective demolition.

BNMC officials declined to comment Friday. “We’re going to let the process run its course,” said BNMC spokeswoman Susan Kirkpatrick, noting that 780 Ellicott Partners currently owns the property and has partnered with BNMC on the project.

McDonnell said the board would like to see if contamination remediation can be done without removing buildings.

“It appears to be a very nice residential building that Osmose renovated on Best. It creates a nice streetscape. If they removed it, would be like knocking out a tooth,” he said. “We’re hoping we can convince them to do selective demolition.”

The board next meets March 8 and hopes to make a decision. If the board opposes the demolition, BNMC can still seek demolition approval through the city since the board’s decisions are advisory on non-landmark structures.

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