The vacant former Sheehan Hospital building on Michigan Avenue is about to become Compass East, a community asset that will serve the neighborhood and stand as one more asset within the sphere of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and development on the waterfront.
McGuire Development Group took title to the eight-acre site at 425 Michigan Ave. for $2 million last year.
Compass East will fill an urgent need in medical job training, heritage tourism, health care and medical research. The new name and mission were unveiled at an open house last Friday afternoon.
The neighborhood and the city will benefit in many ways, not the least of which is turning an eyesore into a center for health sciences, technology and engineering, with an emphasis on medical-related tenants serving the immediate area.
University Pediatric Dentistry PC has signed a long-term lease to operate a dental clinic on the second floor that will serve downtown and East Side neighborhoods.
Compass East will also be a source of job training. The dental practice will be associated with the University at Buffalo’s School of Dental Medicine and will help train hygienists and dental assistants.
The McGuire Group will move its health care workforce and training program into the building, which includes certified nurse assistant training, a seminar series and training for occupational therapy and physical therapy professionals, and continuing education for registered nurses and licensed practical nurses.
And McGuire is negotiating to bring Upstate New York Transplant Services into the former hospital. UNYTS will provide training in phlebotomy and other tissue-related research and developmental jobs.
These training efforts fit perfectly with the burgeoning Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
If that isn’t enough, there is a temporary agreement to house the Langston Hughes Institute, which folds well into the developer’s goal of serving the community while working with the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor Commission.
But it makes little sense to move these facilities into an obsolete structure. As McGuire Development Group President Jim Dentinger pointed out to a News reporter, the building needs to undergo significant interior and exterior work, including gutting 90 percent of the hospital floors and building the space out for the new tenants. Moreover, Dentinger said, because it’s part of the heritage corridor, the community wants a different, revitalized look to what is now a drab structure.
All that work could drive the price up to $11 million to $12 million, so the suggestion by the McGuire Group that the project will need tax incentives, direct investment through the state’s Buffalo Billion program or some combination is no surprise.
Buffalo’s on a building buzz. It’s exciting and invigorating, but much of that activity has involved tax breaks or other public money. That help was never meant to be automatic; it should be granted only if required for a project to go forward. Because of its location, potential and cost, the Compass project is an example of a project that justifies the request for public dollars.