Local developer Rocco Termini knows exactly what he’d like to see done to save the Statler Building, but he says he wouldn’t sign on without the University of Buffalo.
Specifically, Rocco would like to see the UB Law School become a tenant of the Statler. “It makes perfect sense,” Termini says. “Most major cities have their law schools downtown. Just like the medical school is being built around the hospitals, law students need to be where the courts are.”
At present, the UB 2020 Comprehensive Physical Plan calls for a law school on the South Campus, but Termini believes the missed opportunity to move the school downtown is yet another Buffalo-style glitch in planning.
“UB’s position is that they’ve already made their plans, but that needs to be rethought,” he argues. Termini is developing the AM&A’s Warehouse and the Lafayette Hotel, and says, he would tackle the Statler if he knew UB were on board.
“The big problem with a building like this – the hard part – is finding a use for it. If UB said they’d become a tenant, I’d do it. This is not a commercial investment for them, but as tenants, they would take up a good third of the building with the school and student housing,” Termini states. “Then the whole development, with 750,000 square feet of space, becomes easier.”
UB’s Robert Shibley says that the Statler was looked at early on in UB’s plans, and there simply was no fit. “We wish it fit our needs. We have three distinct campuses, and it doesn’t meet our needs to be spread out further,” Shibley says. He goes on to say that if UB chose to be a campus with isolated satellite buildings, this would be fine, but what UB is and has been is a model of collaboration within schools and in proximity to student life. “It doesn’t meet our needs to distribute our assets further,” he explains. “Being a major university requires us to assert our commitment to our physical place.”
Furthermore, Shibley says that the logic of the medical school, which is actually five schools, as opposed to the law school, is that it is best served when consolidation with medical and research facilities, and therefore is not a comparable to the thought of moving the law school off of South Campus. “Wherever possible, our objective is to align development and consolidation, but we attempt to avoid distribution of our management assets and the collaboration it fosters.”
Keep in mind that UB recently completed an extensive two-year effort that identified the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus as their downtown focus within the three-campus master plan. The effect of the removal of UB law school from South Campus would have its own ramifications were the school to be moved downtown.
That being said, Shibley hopes a plan is found for the Statler, which he says is “clearly a valued structure that’s important to the community. I hope they can find a way to use it well.”
Termini is frustrated by resistance to his idea at a time that he feels is crucial in order to avoid making past mistakes yet again. “We’ve had a few opportunities like this,” he says, “and we’ve always blown it. The chance for a Buffalo waterfront stadium, UB on the waterfront. We have this stubborn attitude toward change.”