The sprawling current site of Women & Children’s Hospital could be readapted for a wide range of new uses when the hospital moves to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, according to speakers at a community meeting Thursday night.
No decisions have been made, but suggested uses for the present site at 219 Bryant St., in Elmwood Village, include housing, offices, retail businesses, educational facilities, a community center, and spaces for art and culture and events.
Representatives of Kaleida Health, owner of the hospital, said the meeting in Lafayette Presbyterian Church was the first step in a long path toward community consensus on what should be done with the Bryant Street property. They said additional neighborhood meetings will be held before decisions are made.
Erica Rokenbrod, an Alfred State College intern who has done extensive research for Clinton Brown Co. Architecture of Buffalo, said turning a “white elephant” like the Bryant Street property into a “white knight” could work if planners and developers “work without preconceived notions and remain impartial and objective” in designing its reuse.
Clinton E. Brown, principal of the company that bills itself as a “full service historic preservation architecture firm,” said community meetings are a way of “putting fresh blood and new eyes on the situation.”
Suggestions from some in the audience included tearing down the entire hospital complex, leveling the land and making it “shovel-ready” for redevelopment; preserving some of the older buildings in the complex for their historical value; selling off the property in small parcels for residential development instead of one big parcel for a single developer; or creating townhouses and low-rise apartment buildings.
Robert Bragg and Michael P. Hughes of Kaleida Health said some of the Women & Children’s structures go back to the early 1900s. They said ground breaking for the new facility, to be called the John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital, will be in the spring at Main and High streets. The new hospital is slated to open in 2016.
Assemblyman Sean M. Ryan, D-Buffalo, who organized Thursday’s meeting, said there are “no preconceived opinions on the future use of the present hospital or how it can strengthen the Elmwood Village community.”
Ryan agreed with most members of the audience of about 75 people that the hospital property should be put to some new use almost immediately after the hospital moves out, so its empty buildings will not be left to decay and become a blight on the neighborhood.
The assemblyman said decisions on the future of the property “should be community driven. Kaleida has an open mind on that.”
Tom Yots, of Preservation Buffalo Niagara, an architect, said his organization can help determine whether parts of the existing hospital can be subject to “historic redevelopment.”