The proposed remake of the former Millard Fillmore Hospital at Gates Circle into a $63 million campus providing housing ranging from condominiums and market-rate apartments to continual care for elderly residents is ambitious and large in scope, but the team putting this together is confident it will get the job done.
We trust that the developers will succeed in repurposing the current vacant campus, one step at a time, and also fill a need for senior housing in the city.
With no set date for completion, the massive undertaking has time to percolate. That’s a good thing for both the project principles and the community. As reported, under a plan chosen by Kaleida Health, Canterbury Woods would develop a $28 million campus providing continual care for 55 units of senior citizen housing.
The undertaking will be joined by a $35 million project that includes market-rate residential apartments, mid-market condominiums and for-sale town homes, in addition to a small grocery or café and large health center.
Kaleida Health has chosen a joint venture between TM Montante Development, Episcopal Church Home & Affiliates and Buffalo-based Frontier Industrial Corp. Competition was stiff and included proposals by Benderson Development and Uniland Development Co.
The winning bidder now has the task of remaking the nearly 10-acre, 882,000-square-foot hospital site, which contains 13 buildings. The facility closed in March 2012. Plans call for the demolition of the hospital. It is safe to assume that Montante’s partner, Frontier Industrial, a nationwide demolition and specialty contractor based in Buffalo’s Cobblestone District, will be able to handle that part of the work.
The project is to be done in phases. Montante and Frontier are planning to develop the residential component that will include a large health and wellness center, a small grocery market and additional retail space. Episcopal Church Home & Affiliates will take on a city campus similar to the Canterbury Woods retirement community in Amherst.
Montante has set a laudable goal of making this project the first LEED-certified “neighborhood development” in Western New York – that is, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.
Canterbury Woods has built a reputation with its “continuing care retirement community” that opened in June 1999 in Amherst. It is regulated by the state Department of Financial Services, along with the Health Department. The complex is owned and run by Episcopal Church Home & Affiliates, which is grounded in health care locally dating from 1858.
Determining a viable use for the massive Millard Fillmore site was never going to be easy. It wasn’t easy for Chason Affinity Cos. LLC, which won an earlier development competition with what was then considered a promising $65 million proposal to put a veterinary school in the facility. The plan failed after a breakdown in negotiations between Chason Affinity and Devry Institute, a private, for-profit educational organization that operates the Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine in the Caribbean.
Now, in addition to the Millard Fillmore site, the question looms regarding what’s next for the Women & Children’s Hospital facility in the city’s Elmwood Village. The Bryant Street hospital will soon be vacant after the opening of the $240 million John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, expected in 2016. Kaleida has the advantage of the Millard Fillmore experience in determining the best plan to follow with another large, empty facility in a neighborhood setting. That advantage plays to the neighborhood, as well. Its residents can take heart in the responsible way Kaleida has dealt with the problem at Gates Circle.
The promise of a positive development that will enrich the fabric of the neighborhood deserves the support of the community.