Now called Compass East, the eight-acre site will focus on job training, heritage tourism, health care and medical research.
The new name and expanded mission were unveiled at an open house Friday afternoon inside the 270,000-square-foot building, which was purchased in bankruptcy court last year by McGuire Development Co. for $2 million.
Dozens of community leaders, residents, business owners and elected officials were on hand, eager to learn about plans for the location.
“From what I’ve heard, they’re on a good start,” said the Rev. George Woodruff of Durham Memorial AME Zion Church on Eagle Street, across from the Compass East location. “They’re trying to find out the pulse of the community and what’s needed.”
F. James McGuire, CEO of the McGuire Group, talked about the importance of the site’s location within the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor and the fact that it is adjacent to the burgeoning Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and close to the downtown business district.
University Pediatric Dentistry, for instance, has signed on as a new tenant and will occupy the redeveloped dental clinic on the second floor. It is associated with University at Buffalo’s School of Dental Medicine and will staff the clinic to serve downtown and East Side neighborhoods.
The new owners are negotiating with UNYTS, an organ transplant organization, to relocate its research program to Compass East.
“Right now they send samples out to researchers in places like Denver and Connecticut because they have no capabilities for that in the current building, but they will have them here,” said Danielle Shainbrown, a McGuire vice president.
And 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.
“The program trains a few hundred individuals each year in health care, and we’re looking to increase the numbers,” McGuire said.
Many of the residents and community leaders at Friday’s event were pleased that McGuire is trying to include the community’s input and involvement as the project moves forward.
“It’s our neighborhood. We want to know what’s happening, know what’s going on in our backyard,” said Ruth Bryant, who represented the Willard Park Village Community Association. The zone is bounded by Cherry and Swan streets and Jefferson and Michigan avenues.
“They are undertaking job training, and I think that’s excellent, especially with what’s going on at the Medical Campus,” said Aqiel Qadir, a Central Park resident. “As I understand, some of the training will be connected with what’s going on there.” She heard about the open house through Dorothy Hill, executive director of the Langston Hughes Institute.
The cultural organization recently moved into temporary 20,000-square-foot space inside Compass East for its offices and to store its artwork until it can finalize a new museum on Broadway. The institute is the fourth anchor in the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor along with the Colored Musicians Club, Nash House Museum and Michigan Street Baptist Church. The temporary agreement at Compass East fits into McGuire’s goal of working with the corridor commission.
Also in attendance at Friday’s open house were Mayor Byron W. Brown, Rep. Brian Higgins, State Sen. Timothy M. Kennedy, Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, Erie County Legislators Betty Jean Grant and Timothy Hogues, and Ellicott Councilman Darius Pridgen.