Catholic Health System is looking to move downtown. The area's second largest hospital system wants to consolidate it corporate and administrative offices and is eyeing a vacant parcel at Genesee and Oak Streets controlled by Uniland Development Company
for the new building. A consolidation at the site would bring upwards of 700 workers downtown that are currently scattered at a number of city and suburban sites. Details on the design of the new building have not been released but is expected to be about 120,000 sq.ft.
The [Catholic Health] board of directors agreed Sept. 27 to build in Buffalo after considering other options in the suburbs, some with handsome incentive packages. Catholic Health officials declined to identify the site, but several sources confirmed that it's a vacant parcel in the Elm-Oak corridor, commonly referred to as "Block 21." The parcel is located along Elm, Oak and Genesee streets, just as motorists come off the Kensington Expressway.
is a non-profit healthcare system that provides care to Western New Yorkers across a network of hospitals, primary care centers, and other medical facilities. It has more than 8,200 full and part-time associates and 1,200 physicians.
The deal appears solid. Uniland is said to be close to buying a nearby property that would be used for parking needed for Catholic Health employees.
Uniland's Block 21 is the last undeveloped site in the Elm-Oak Corridor/Buffalo Technology Campus. Nearly all of the properties between Elm and Oak streets were demolished in the 1950s to prepare for an above grade expressway link between the I-190 and the Kensington Expressway. That plan was dropped and in the late 1970's both Elm and Oak were widened and synchronized traffic signals installed to smooth traffic flow.
The City shortly thereafter began planning for a suburban-like business park on the empty corridor parcels hoping to attract office, research and high tech companies. Starting in 1982, Uniland Development renovated one building and constructed ten others plus a parking ramp on the blocks between Clinton and Goodell streets.
Uniland has floated a number of plans for the 3.1 acre site that Catholic Health is considering. In the late-1980's, plans called for a seven-story building on the parcel. In 2004, Uniland proposed a three-story, 150,000 sq.ft. building.
The parcel represents both a challenge and an opportunity. The property is a gateway to downtown and the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus at the base of the Kensington Expressway on/off ramps. It offers four-sided visibility to the expressway, Genesee Street, and Elm and Oak streets. More importantly, a properly-designed project can help bridge downtown and the Medical Campus to the near east side.
The site plan for the property on Uniland's website
is likely only a placeholder but does a number of things wrong. It turns its back on downtown, puts parking at the corner of Genesee and Oak, and is completely disengaged from the street. Uniland has proven it has urban sensibilities, see 285 Delaware Avenue and Avant. This one needs to be done right.