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Catholic Health System said Thursday it will build a $46 million, six-story headquarters in Buffalo, consolidating 700 employes in eight scattered locations into one building at the gateway to downtown off the Kensington Expressway.
The region’s second-largest hospital system will be housed in a 140,000-square-foot Administrative and Regional Training Center at 144 Genesee St., between Elm and Oak streets.
The building, with an adjacent parking garage for 700 cars, will be constructed on vacant grassy land by Uniland Development Co., which owns the property, and will be leased to Catholic Health for an unspecified term. Designed by Buffalo-based architectural firm Stieglitz Snyder, the building will have its entrance on Genesee Street.
“Our founding sponsors laid the foundation for health care in Buffalo more than 150 years ago... and we are able to honor their legacy by building this facility in the heart of Buffalo,” Joseph McDonald, president and CEO of Catholic Health, said in a news release. “We had many options for a new home, but we wanted to be downtown, and the mayor and his team helped move that process forward.”
The project will benefit from $3.8 million in state funding that was designated by the Assembly to the city for development projects. It was allocated to the project by Mayor Byron W. Brown, who said it was needed to fill a funding gap that otherwise would have derailed the project.
“This is the gateway to downtown as you exit the 33,” Brown said at a news conference. “To have all of these jobs coming to downtown Buffalo builds critical mass, more people working in downtown, and more people working downtown will be there to support businesses that are located in downtown Buffalo, so it’s very good news.”
Catholic Health explored a range of proposals from developers in the city and suburbs, including industrial parks, but McDonald said officials gave a heavier weight to downtown “because we believed it was important for us to do.”
“It was a broad, regional look, but at the end of the day, the Uniland proposal and the ability to be part of the Buffalo city initiative was very appealing to us,” he said in an interview.
Officials plan to break ground Oct. 30, with construction expected to begin by year’s end, once all city approvals are in place.
The project, which was approved by the hospital system’s board Sept. 27, is expected to be completed in the summer of 2014.
The new headquarters building adds to the expanded medical presence that has been developing in downtown Buffalo. It will be almost adjacent to the growing Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, including Buffalo General Medical Center and the headquarters of rival Kaleida Health, as well as Roswell Park Cancer Institute, the Hauptmann-Woodward Institute, and other scientific and medical operations.
And it comes just a few years after the region’s largest health insurer, Buffalo-based HealthNow New York, parent of BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York, built its own new headquarters at 257 W. Genesee St., on the south side of downtown.
The new building will include an employee health clinic to provide physicals but will not include any medical offices or clinical health services. “I don’t believe you’ll see us opening up any outpatient services at this time,” McDonald said. “There’s plenty of services available in that area.”
Officials described the move as part of the hospital system’s effort to reduce its overall cost structure and be more efficient, matching its efforts in lowering health care costs through improved clinical quality, better use of newer health care technology and a “patient-centered” medical approach.
“As we continue to transform health care in our region, we are making every effort to achieve the administrative efficiencies that are the hallmark of a high-performing health care system,” McDonald said.
Catholic Health operates four hospitals – Kenmore Mercy, Mercy Hospital of Buffalo, Sisters and Sisters of Charity St. Joseph Campus – plus numerous health care centers, labs, and adult and nursing homes.
The new facility, which has been in the works for months, will reduce Catholic Health’s administrative operations from 180,000 square feet in eight places across the region, saving about $1 million a year in operating expenses for the next 25 years, although that reportedly won’t translate into higher profits. “What we save in administrative costs can be reinvested in patient care,” McDonald said.
Besides the administrative and professional staff for the hospital system and the affiliated Catholic Medical Partners, the building also will house a regional training center for health care-related education.
“As we prepare for health reform, there’s going to be a lot of need for us to create some retooling of expertise for clinicians, nurses and technicians to respond to the new needs of health reform,” McDonald said. “This will not just serve Catholic Health facilities, but other facilities across the region. We wouldn’t preclude anybody.”
The building’s design firm, Stieglitz Snyder, designed the rebuilding of Uniland’s Avant Building on Delaware Avenue. The new facility will include environmentally friendly features and efficient energy systems, and will seek LEED certification. The parking garage will have the capacity for an extra floor if additional spaces are needed in the future.
Uniland, which has owned the property since the mid-1980s, turned down smaller projects for the site, said Vice President Michael Montante. The most-well-known occupant of the space was a controversial art project called Green Lightning that stood briefly on the site in 1984.
“As a gateway site into the city, it deserves something more. This project here, we’re very proud of that building. It’s going to have great street presence. It’s the perfect project for the site,” Montante said.

News Staff Reporter Jill Terreri contributed to this article. email: jepstein@buffnews.com