What’s next for the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus?

By | The Buffalo News | Published | Updated

The newly opened $270 million John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital was a page turner in the latest chapter of the burgeoning downtown Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

So was the December opening of the University at Buffalo’s $375 million new home for its Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

The completion of the new projects mark a turning point for the 120-acre campus at the epicenter of Buffalo’s renaissance.

In 2002, the campus was in its infancy with just three companies. Now boasting 4.5 million square feet of development and $1.4 billion in investments, the campus has moved beyond just medical institutions. It has taken shape with a diverse mix of health care, life science and technology companies, becoming fertile ground for entrepreneurs and their startups.

There is still more to come.

Campus planners are aiming for BNMC to rival medical campuses in places like Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Among the next steps are strengthening ties with higher education and the private sectors.

“We are so well positioned with all the institutions and assets that are here and now want to embrace the excellent universities and colleges,” said Matthew K. Enstice, CEO and president of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus Inc. “We plan to build out” – meaning renovate – “more space for them to have a location so they can interact and be a part of the entrepreneurial ecosystem that we have here.”

A big part of that vision is tapping into local small and large companies, especially mature ones, and including them in the campus’ vision for its innovation district. “The world is changing so quickly in technology, that we’re putting a structure in place to help multiple, different companies innovate,” Enstice said.

Here’s what’s coming next on the Medical Campus:

• Design work is expected to start for renovation of existing buildings on the former Osmose Holdings site. In 2016, BNMC bought the 4.4-acre parcel, which is located at the northern edge of campus at Ellicott and Best streets and has parking for 200. It is expected to be a magnet for mature private-sector companies, along with universities and colleges, but will not be a second incubator, BNMC officials say.

• Ellicott Development Co. has a $4 million adaptive reuse development project underway at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, just north of the campus at Main and Best streets. To the south, Ellicott is planning a six-story retail and office building at 1091 Main St.

• Along the western edge of the campus, design work will begin for a redo of a critical stretch of Main Street from Goodell toward Canisius College. Meanwhile, a $7.5 million overhaul of Allen Street, including redesigned sidewalks and widened sections of the street, is expected to begin. Work will be done in phases, stretching from the eastern end of Allen toward Wadsworth.

• Workers will put the finishing touches on the exterior of UB’s Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, which opened to students earlier this month at 955 Main St. Final terra cotta panels are being installed on the Washington Street side of the building by spring. Most of the university’s labs are being moved in from mid-January through mid-March. With the medical school fully operational, 2,000 faculty, staff and students will be there daily.

• The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority’s newly renovated Allen Medical Campus Station has been integrated into the medical school. The station features “Gut Flora,” a colorful public art sculpture by Shasti O’Leary Soudant, and a newsstand opens this month. A one-block tunnel that serves as a pedestrian passageway to Washington Street will open beneath the medical school.

• The campus’ ninth pedestrian skybridge will be designed and constructed later in the year. It will span High Street, linking the Conventus medical office building to the UB Medical School. The new $1.5 million connector comes after three other skybridges just opened in November: one from Conventus to Oishei Children’s Hospital, another from Children’s Hospital to Buffalo General Medical Center/Gates Vascular Institute, and a third leading out the back of Children’s Hospital to a new parking ramp at 854 Ellicott St.

• By late May, the $40 million, 1,825-space parking ramp behind Oishei Children’s Hospital at 854 Ellicott will be completed. The top half of the eight-story ramp has been under construction since late 2017. The bottom half of the eight-story ramp opened Nov. 10 with Oishei Children’s Hospital.

• The 128,000-square-foot Thomas R. Beecher Innovation Center at 640 Ellicott St. will be completely full by the end of March.