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UB Begins New Eight-Story, 540,000-Square-Foot Medical School Construction Project

UB on Tuesday broke ground in downtown Buffalo on a milestone project in the university’s history and in the city’s efforts to reinvent itself as a destination for world-class health care.

The medical school project is the largest individual construction project in the university’s 167 years. Among those wielding a shovel at the ceremonial groundbreaking ceremony are Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, center; SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, to Cuomo’s right; and President Satish K. Tripathi, to the governor’s left. Photos: Douglas Levere

Scheduled to open in the fall of 2016, UB’s new School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences is being constructed on a site of approximately two acres at Main and High streets on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. The medical school is returning to its historic roots; it was located on High Street from 1893 until 1953, when it moved to the South Campus.

The eight-story, 540,000-square-foot building is the first project to be funded by a NYSUNY Challenge Grant provided by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo when he signed the NYSUNY 2020 bill into law in 2011.

“Today’s groundbreaking of a new medical school here at the University at Buffalo is yet another demonstration of the state’s commitment to revitalizing Western New York and bring Buffalo back stronger than ever before,” Cuomo said. “The Western New York region is becoming one of the nation’s premier locations for health and medical sciences, and this new school will play a central role in bringing the best and brightest medical students, teachers, researchers and doctors here to Buffalo. In 2011, we launched the NYSUNY 2020 Challenge Grant Program because we believed that universities like UB could serve as a hub for job creation, economic growth and community revitalization. With today’s groundbreaking, we are continuing to see this vision become a reality.”

The medical school project is the largest individual construction project in the university’s 167 years and is a critical step in the UB 2020 plan to pursue research addressing critical societal needs, provide students with transformative educational experiences and further engage with local and global communities.

With a new medical school, UB will hire 100 new medical faculty members and grow the size of its medical school class from 140 to 180 students. This influx of new UB medical talent will provide the region with access to additional clinical specialties and state-of-the-art health care.

The new 21st-century learning and research environments in the new facility, in close proximity to health care partners on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC), will greatly enhance clinical education for UB medical students through state-of-the-art research and simulation laboratories, and through synergies with BNMC health care partners. It will produce new research leading to advances in medical treatments and technologies, and create opportunities to grow the region’s emerging biomedical industry.

“This groundbreaking is a pivotal moment for UB and our region,” said President Satish K. Tripathi. “The new medical school embodies all the core elements of the UB 2020 vision—advancing research and discovery that respond to the critical issues we face in the 21st century world, preparing our students to be global leaders in this world and engaging even more effectively with our broader communities.

“Moving the medical school downtown will help us realize our university’s vision of excellence by advancing patient care, creating new medical discoveries, providing a world-class medical education and helping revitalize downtown Buffalo.”

Tripathi added that the groundbreaking was made possible by the generosity of the university’s many partners, including First Niagara, which provided UB with a 0.85-acre parcel on the site.

“Today's groundbreaking marks an exciting moment in SUNY’s history,” said SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher. “The UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences will be a catalyst for pioneering research activity and discovery, a destination for students and faculty from throughout New York and around the world who want to study, teach and practice medicine at the highest level, and a safe haven that provides hope for patients.”

Added Michael E. Cain, vice president for health sciences and dean of the UB medical school: “Today, we break ground for much more than a new building. Today, we mark the start of a new era for the medical school, for UB, for the city of Buffalo and for Western New York.

“Moving the medical school close to our hospital and research partners on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus allows UB to foster, for the first time in its history, a comprehensive academic health center, creating a health care destination on par with Pittsburgh, Cleveland and St. Louis. Our goal is to speed new discoveries and knowledge, all for the goal of advancing health care.”

Since Cain became dean in November 2006, the medical school has hired 24 new department chairs and senior-level appointees, who have, in turn, recruited new faculty members to UB.

“Many of these new hires are helping to fill some of the region’s gaps in health care so patients in our community can receive the care they need right here,” Cain added.

The building was designed by HOK, a global design, architecture, engineering and planning firm. Community organizations, including the Allentown Association and the Orchard Community Initiative, a citizens group based in the Fruit Belt, provided significant feedback and input on the design, and they will continue to be involved in the project going forward.

Features of the building include a light-filled, seven-story glass atrium that joins the building’s two L-shaped structures and a terra-cotta and rainscreen façade. In addition to state-of-the-art research laboratories and classrooms, the new building will house advanced simulation centers for general patient care and surgical and robotic surgery training.

The downtown medical school will be constructed on top of a new Allen/Hospital Metro station, a detail that accentuates community connections and promotes sustainable transportation options, which will help the building’s targeted LEED gold designation.

The transit station and the building’s connecting bridges to hospitals and other health care facilities will make navigating the medical school to and from the BNMC partner institutions more convenient and efficient. These physical connections will underscore the powerful programmatic connections in clinical education, patient care and research that will be tremendously strengthened as a result of the medical school’s new location on the BNMC.

The new medical school will bring an additional 2,000 faculty, staff and students to downtown Buffalo, acting as a significant generator of economic growth and opportunity as well as urban vitality.

For the design phase of the project, the SUNY Construction Fund and UB have achieved 15 percent for minority-owned business participation and 15 percent for women-owned business participation. For the construction management phase, 20 percent minority business participation and 10 percent women-owned business participation has been achieved.

The SUNY Construction Fund and UB will develop goals for minority-owned and women-owned business participation in the construction phase with the assistance of a minority- and women-owned business enterprise (MWBE) outreach consultant, as has been the case on all the university’s major building projects in the recent past.

This consultant, retained by the SUNY Construction Fund, will assist the university in developing bid packages that help maximize MWBE participation and then monitor and report on that participation after the contracts have been awarded. This focus on MWBE participation is a key goal of Cuomo and New York State. The university is strongly committed to MWBE participation in all of its construction projects.

Gilbane LiRo Ventures is the construction manager. The construction project will be put out to bid later this year.

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