The absence is conspicuous. What is missing are pickets, protests, outraged blog posts, letters to the editor and lawsuits. Nobody chained himself to a fence or, the last I heard, intends to fling himself in front of a bulldozer.-----
We have a word for that around here: progress.
It is no accident.
It is what happens when folks making a Big Decision shelve their egos, concede that they do not know everything about everything, reach out to experts, connect with neighbors and tap our community resource of informed people.
That wasn't so hard, now, was it?
The folks running Kaleida Health announced this week the plan for the vast, recently vacated Millard Fillmore Hospital complex on Gates Circle. Transforming the place into a school of veterinary medicine brings a new business, which potentially complements our morphing hospital/university network, adds jobs, breathes life into a monolithic building, saves historic 1911 structures and taps a purported national need. What's not to like?
"You build on your strengths," said progressive developer Howard Zemsky, the Svengali of the new-urban Larkinville neighborhood and co-head of the governor's regional economic council. "This connects with our sweet spot of universities and the medical corridor. It's smart growth that invests in the city, reuses buildings and brings job spinoffs."
Granted, this thing is far from the homestretch. Developer Chason Affinity has to find a college to run the place and figure out who picks up the $65 million bill. There may not be as crying a need for veterinary schools as Kaleida apparently believes.
Even so, at first look, it seems like an inventive solution to a massive vacancy problem.
It does not take the smarts of Mr. Ed to grasp the larger point: A better process leads to a better result. On the road to a decision, Kaleida called in the renowned Urban Land Institute, reached out to UB, held public forums and met with neighbors.
"Doing it this way took more time and was more expensive," Kaleida's Ted Walsh said. "But involving others and engaging the community led us, I think, to a better decision."
It may also mark a larger milestone: The death of the "magic bullet" - the hatched-in-a-boardroom, shoved-down-our-throat, massively subsidized, community-salvation project. Each was supposed to pull us from the economic quicksand, erase our gulag-like national image, reverse our communal inferiority complex and make us all look 10 years younger.
The list of top-down mega-proposals included a waterfront Bass Pro, a bridge of questionable need and downtown-obliterating convention center. All died slow but deserved deaths, yet exacted a price in time, energy and hard feelings.
There is a better way, and we seem - from the community-shaped downtown waterfront, to Zemsky's Larkinville, to the Fillmore/Gates solution - to have found it.
"I think," Kaleida's Walsh said, "that people are starting to pay attention to different ways of doing things."
The magic bullet - finally, shot to death.