A primary theory of economic development is that if you can put enough people in some space, investment will follow and the area will thrive. The theory is playing out like a charm around the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, as developers rush to take advantage of the multiple opportunities created by the influx of people drawn to the still-growing campus. It’s a thing of beauty.
Some developers began buying up properties along the Metro line and surrounding areas before the Medical Campus was anything more than an idea; others started acquiring them as the long-term prospects of the area became clear. Wealth is being created: for developers who had the foresight to buy early; for landowners who held onto their property until values rose; for business owners who are committing to the neighborhood; for the city, which will see a desperately needed increase in its property tax levy.
A story in Sunday’s Buffalo News detailed the development sparked by the establishment and growth of the Medical Campus. While three principal developers are reaping many of the benefits – they are Carl Paladino, Paul Ciminelli and Carl Montante St. – the rising land values have radiating effects. For landlords in Allentown and along Main Street, for example, rents are rising. While space was available for around 80 to 90 cents per square foot a decade ago, Allentown apartments are now renting for $1.25 to $1.40 per square foot.
Development is also coming to the near East Side, and more is expected as land values rise elsewhere. As a consequence, the line marking “the wrong side of the tracks” is moving further east. The downside is that people without means may also be squeezed out of their homes. Those are the advantages and consequences of gentrification, which is not only wholly desirable, but as inevitable as the laws of supply and demand. Still, it will be important to help ensure that as values rise, people aren’t left without acceptable options.
But the change is upon us. Today, some 12,000 people work on the Medical Campus, a 30-square-block area near Buffalo General Medical Center and Roswell Park Cancer Institute. It is exploding with growth. Already open is the Gates Vascular Institute. In various stages of development are the seven-story Conventus medical office building, the 11-story Roswell Park Clinical Sciences Center and the new University at Buffalo Medical School. Soon, work will begin on the new John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital.
Thus, within three years, the number of people working or learning on the campus is expected to reach 17,000 to 20,000 people, an increase of as much as 67 percent. It’s a huge amount, and one that will attract further development, including restaurants, dry cleaners, grocery stores and more.
And that’s only what’s happening around the Medical Campus. On the waterfront, both the inner and outer harbors are also developing into popular destinations. Larkinville has re-created a once-dreary neighborhood just east of downtown, and projects are under way between the two areas.
Buffalo is reaching for its future. It is already a different city from what it was a decade ago – just ask the landlords in Allentown – and 10 years from now it will have developed even more.
It’s an exciting time, especially for Buffalo, but for all Western New Yorkers who understand the city’s importance to the future. Other areas of the city need attention, especially its school district, but after decades of despair, Buffalo is on a path to greater things than it dared hope for even a few years ago.