The organization that operates the downtown Medical Campus has found a temporary home for Albany Molecular Research Inc., the contract drug manufacturer lured to Buffalo with the promise of millions of dollars. Part of the deal will bring an extended-stay hotel to the campus.
The not-for-profit Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus is buying the former SmartPill Corp. building from the Krog Corp. and preparing the facility for use by AMRI and a partner company until a permanent home can be built for the life-sciences companies. The entire cost of acquiring the building at 847 Main St. and readying it for AMRI and the other tenant is $15 million, and officials hope the companies will be able to move in within nine months.
“It’s a really exciting opportunity for us,” said Matthew K. Enstice, the president and CEO of the medical campus.
Krog had planned to tear down the SmartPill building to make way for a mixed-use building that would include an extended-stay hotel. So in exchange for Krog’s agreement to sell, the developer will get the exclusive right to build the hotel in the medical corridor, a feature that Krog Corp.’s owner believes will be in even higher demand once the University at Buffalo Medical School and Women & Children’s Hospital move to the campus.
“There’s a lot going on, and I think to have something on the campus is a benefit to us as well as the campus,” said Peter Krog Sr.
New York and local officials announced in December that the state will spend $50 million to build and outfit a facility on the Medical Campus for the Albany-based life sciences company and several partner businesses.
The money, which includes $35 million for high-tech equipment, is coming from the state’s “Buffalo billion” economic-development pledge to the region. In return, AMRI and its partners promise to create 250 jobs and invest $200 million in private money in the project.
Enstice and other campus administrators have spent much of this year pursuing a dual track – identifying a permanent site for AMRI and its partners as well as a temporary location that will allow the companies to start operations in Buffalo as soon as possible. They initially considered placing AMRI in the Thomas R. Beecher Jr. Innovation Center, a business incubator and office building on the Medical Campus that is home to a range of mostly young companies.
“We were going to squeeze them in,” Enstice said, though the center had only about 25,000 square feet of available space, barely enough for AMRI.
Campus officials then looked to 847 Main St., which Krog Corp. has owned since 2000.
The roughly 40,000-square-foot building has housed a number of medical-device makers over the years, including Minrad International and Appro Healthcare, but has been empty since SmartPill moved out at the beginning of this year.
Krog said he has had some interest in the site but settled on a plan to raze the complex and construct in its place a mixed-use, seven-story building with parking, commercial and office space and an extended-stay hotel. Medical Campus officials asked Krog to sell the building to them instead. The complex has office and warehouse space, and campus planners believe they could add 10,000 square feet of additional space above the warehouse.
“It’s still a temporary fix,” Enstice said.
Rehabilitating an existing building can be a more complicated, time-consuming process than constructing a new facility, but there is a value to reusing a structure instead of tearing down and building anew each time, said Alain E. Kaloyeros, senior vice president and CEO of the University of Albany’s College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering and a driving force behind the AMRI project in Buffalo.
Campus officials and Krog signed the sale contract Thursday afternoon, though the purchase still must be approved by the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus board.
Enstice and Krog declined to disclose the sale price, but the property is assessed at $1.65 million, according to Erie County real-property records. Work to prepare and outfit the facility will last into 2014, Kaloyeros said.
“I am hoping that the design, construction and refitting of the building could be done in less than nine months,” he said.
AMRI initially will be joined by one other tenant, a global manufacturer and supplier of medical equipment, which will help attract other pharma companies to the Medical Campus, officials said. Kaloyeros said he wasn’t yet authorized to reveal the partner’s identity.
Kaloyeros also declined to say precisely how many workers AMRI and its partner will employ when they initially move into the former SmartPill building, though he hopes it won’t be long before the companies have reached their jobs target.
“I expect the jobs are going to be moving in as soon as the building is ready,” Kaloyeros said.
Moving AMRI to the SmartPill building frees up the Innovation Center for other tenants, Enstice said, and campus officials are moving closer to finding a permanent home for the contract drug manufacturer. The first plan, which would have required tearing down part of the former Trico complex, ran into objections from preservationists.
Now, as The Buffalo News reported in June, campus officials are looking to tear down the aging, city-owned Ellicott Goodrich Garage, known as the EGG, which sits between Goodrich and North streets, and replace those 900 spaces with a 1,600-vehicle ramp and several floors of research space on top for AMRI and its partners.
Campus officials hope to have the permanent facility open by the end of 2016, Enstice said.
As for the hotel, Krog said he plans to partner with Hart Hotels on the project. They are looking to build an extended-stay hotel, with 120 to 150 rooms. It would join the DoubleTree Club by Hilton Hotel at 125 High St., near Buffalo General Hospital and Roswell Park Cancer Institute.
The partners haven’t yet decided whether they want to convert an existing building or build from scratch, but they are exploring all of their options with campus officials.
“We’ve talked to them about a lot of different locations but nothing has been solidified at this point,” Krog said.