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A bridge too far? A Medical Campus footbridge is still on the drawing board

A bridge too far? A Medical Campus footbridge is still on the drawing board

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The Conventus Building is a centerpiece of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, and will be connected to University at Buffalo's Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences via a footbridge. (Derek Gee/News file photo)

Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus officials are still planning to build a long-delayed skybridge connector between the Conventus building and the new medical school building.

Patrick Kilcullen, the chief financial officer of the nonprofit organization that runs the campus, said planning is underway for the long-delayed project, which would connect the second floors of the research and medical building with the University at Buffalo's new Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

The cost is estimated at about $1.5 million, based on the price of similar connectors on the campus. Officials are working on both the design and funding sources, he said, following a presentation to the Western New York Commercial Association of Realtors on Thursday.

The lack of a connector had been a subject of discussion among some doctors, patients and others since the medical school opened last year. Officials had always intended for such a footbridge connector, and had publicly discussed it in the past.

But Kilcullen said it hadn't been formally factored into the construction plans for either of the two buildings, which were completed and opened at different times.

"They both were designed to accommodate it, but neither one actually had it as part of their project," he said.

Conventus was built in 2015 by Ciminelli Real Estate Corp., which sold the seven-story building to Hong Kong-based Chevalier International in March 2018 for $122 million. Ciminelli continues to manage the facility for Chevalier.

The $375 million medical school was completed in 2017, with the formal opening of the eight-story, 628,000-square-foot facility taking place in early 2018.

Kilcullen said officials are hoping to have the bridge designs, financing and permits in place by spring or early summer.  He acknowledged that "there are some challenges associated with it," such as opening up the two buildings, but "it’s not significant from a construction standpoint."

"We’ve done it before, and the contractors know how to handle these things. But especially when you’re working with multiple parties, accommodating those things makes it a little more difficult," Kilcullen said.

The bridge is one of only two significant pending projects on the Medical Campus, after several years of rapid growth and new construction totaling more than $800 million. Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center is also planning to erect a new parking ramp on the campus to help with its parking crunch.

"Parking is a continuing issue that we deal with on an ongoing basis," he said.

UB has previously talked about a long-term goal to relocate all of its health care-related schools from the South Campus to the Medical Campus. That's even part of the school's UB2020 comprehensive plan. But there's been no recent movement toward that goal, Kilcullen said.

Meanwhile, private developers continue to undertake a series of residential apartment and retail projects around the Medical Campus, including in Allentown, in the downtown core, just to the north along Main Street, and now even just to the east in the Fruit Belt.

Kilcullen said Medical Campus officials are hoping the continued redevelopment and growth will spur the city to repair and even reshape Main Street, which "has seen various sections in states of disrepair" as a result of all the work.

The Buffalo News: Good Morning, Buffalo

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