BNMC People
By Elizabeth Licata

Chan Krieger & Associates
Lawrence A. Chan, Patrick Tedesco, and Davis Gamble
of Chan Krieger & Associates, the firm that has
mapped out the BNMC Master Plan.
Photo by Jim Bush.

Masters at Planning
There is a certain amount of derision among Western New Yorkers when the talk turns to plans and studies. “We’re studied to death,” one might say. Or “What happened to the other six plans we had?” another might inquire (heavy ironic emphasis). Then, someone else retorts with examples of what happens when we don’t plan.

Highways that bisect and obscure a beautiful Olmsted park system. Prime waterfront property littered with industrial detritus, and unavailable for public use. Houses built on swamps. Our largest university campus isolated from the city center and virtually unserved by mass transit.

Until recently, the complex of medical buildings bounded by Main Street, North Street, Goodell Street, and Michigan Avenue would have been a minor example of obvious “non-planning.” Not exactly a mistake, in this case, but something that could have been better done and more integrated with its surrounding communities (Allentown, the Fruit Belt, and the Theatre District). The boundaries tell the story. Along Michigan, empty lots and blank-walled parking ramps turn their back on the residential Fruit Belt. Along Main, Allen Street stops, reinforcing the impression that Main Street acts as a racially-charged wall between the East and West Sides. At Main and Virginia, a hideous (and untenanted) one-story contemporary bunker faces a block of decaying Victorian structures on the west side.

All that will be changing over the next few years. Invigorated by a new focus on bioinformatics research, the institutions that make up the BNMC—Kaleida, Hauptman-Woodward, Roswell Park, and the University at Buffalo—decided to work together to make their joint home more of an economic engine for Buffalo, one that would reflect in its physical make-up the important scientific work that was happening inside the clinics and offices of the widely disparate building styles. In order to better accommodate the new buildings to come (notably, a Center for Bioinformatics, among others), and create a real “campus” feel, the board of the BNMC decided to bring in professional planners. They chose Chan Krieger & Associates, a Boston firm that has won awards for its urban and campus planning as well as for architecture.

Carl J. Shapiro Clinical Center
Drawing of completed Chan Krieger project:
the Carl J. Shapiro Clinical Center in Boston.
In June, 2003, it will be two years since Chan Krieger started thinking about the future of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. They began a “scoping study” in 2001, the purpose of which was to determine the need for a master plan, and what the guiding principals of that master plan would be. They looked at the square footage that existed—for institutional structures, amenities, and parking—and calculated how much square footage could be added. They worked with community groups in Allentown and the Fruit Belt and consulted heavily with the University at Buffalo’s Urban Design Project, led by U.B. professor Robert G. Shibley, and the Center for Urban Studies, led by professor Henry Louis Taylor, Jr.

“We must respond to the surrounding context,” says partner Larry Chan. “We’ve had experience in dealing with these uses—urban design and campus planning—it’s a combination of finding physical solutions and [conceptually] redefining the institutions as the BNMC,” He adds, “It is a very urban area, and there’s a sensitivity in how you deal with that.”

“Planning issues writ large”
What everyone should know about the BNMC is that this is not a simple construction project that might take three-four years. Most of the built environment of the BNMC—with the exceptions of the Center for Bioinformatics and an addition to Hauptman-Woodward—is already sitting there. Roswell Park has recently renovated its nineteen-building campus, and Kaleida’s Buffalo General Hospital is unlikely to be expanding. What is needed is a way to tie all the existing and future buildings together, to create a welcoming, comfortable environment for staff, patients, and visitors, and to build strong connections to the surrounding neighborhoods that will provide mutual benefits. And if there is future expansion that’s not yet on the drawing board, it will need to be done appropriately, within this campus context. The BNMC Master Plan, unveiled by Chan Krieger last November, is designed to be implemented over decades, not years.

“Planning is long-term vision,” says Chan. “It can take twenty-forty years. A single firm won’t implement all the projects.” Chan adds that the largest projects they are involved with involve multiple forms.

Nichols Athletic Center
Drawing of completed Chan Krieger project:
The Nichols Athletic Center at Buckingham
Browne & Nichols School in Cambridge.
Known nationally for their urban planning projects—particularly waterfront projects—Chan Krieger has completed master plans for the Pittsburgh Riverlife Task Force, the Old Port of Montreal, and business districts in Boston, Minneapolis, Des Moines, and Providence. The Pittsburgh project will cost $10 billion over ten years and is designed to revitalize a five-mile radius of the Golden Triangle with new housing, water transit, and other amenities. Most of the firm’s architectural projects have taken place in and around the Boston area, and include the Carl J. Shapiro Clinical Center, the Children’s Museum, and several university-related projects. The firm has done campus planning for Harvard and Johns Hopkins, among other sites.

Shades of blue and green
So what will we see at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus?

“You have to create a dynamic between spaces,” says team member David Gamble. “Banners were the first phase in the streetscape elements we created.”

Indeed, blue banners with wavy designs, each identifying different institutions, can now be seen throughout the area. The team has also chosen lighting fixtures, bollards, bike racks, and benches that they hope to see throughout the campus, providing some uniformity of design as well as added conveniences for BNMC denizens. A look at the BNMC map of the future also shows many green circles lining all the streets—at least 100 new trees would add some lushness to the blocks of concrete and brick.

On a much larger scale, the team has designed ways to tie the campus together and to its surrounding communities. Allen Street would be lengthened to run as far as Ellicott Street, which is planned to be the central artery of the campus. The current subway station at Allen and Main would be redesigned so that Allen could continue through Main. Overhead walkways would connect some of the buildings, pulling them together. Common green spaces would be created and parking would be underground where possible.

The designs that Chan Krieger has chosen are in the European Modernist tradition—most of the elements have clean, minimal lines. We want the design palette to reflect the nature of the state-of-the-art medicine and medical research being practiced here,” explains Larry Chan.

“We’re trying to fill in all the gaps—provide a common fabric,” he continues. “We’re trying to define a street wall, with buildings close to the street. We’re defining paths so that you can see your destination. We want to provide a recognizable comfort level.”

“When its densified,” adds team member Patrick Tedesco, “it’s not so hard to imagine walking around the campus.”

Although Chan Krieger is not the architectural firm for either the Hauptman-Woodward expansion or the Center for Bioinformatics, they are excited that Cannon design is following their priority for shared, open space and space that includes the outdoors. The Hauptmann-Woodward central space will be an atrium, and the Center for Bioinformatics.

In the meantime, as the master plan is slowly implemented, Chan Krieger remains on-call, ready to work with all participants to help make many different dreams a common reality.

Elizabeth Licata is editor of Buffalo Spree.

The Community Connection
By Donna I. Evans

Sometimes you just have to go where your passion leads you—and that’s what Elizabeth (Betsy) M. Bergen, Esq. has done. After more than eleven years practicing law in the area of product liability, Bergen applied for a new position at the University at Buffalo Center for Urban Studies. She is now a projects manager, representing the University in the rehabilitation and redevelopment of the Fruit Belt.

“I had been concerned for some time about the direction our city was taking, so I took a course in Community Development,” Bergen says. “Then I began to look for a place I could use that knowledge and my experience in advocacy to improve the city.”

Bergen, Ware, and Davis
Elizabeth Bergen, of UB's Center for Urban Studies;
Atheria Ware, President of the Fruit Belt Block Club;
and Alethea Davis, President of the Fruit Belt
development Corporation.
Photo by Jim Bush.

The place Bergen found was a newly created position funded by a grant from a generous Buffalo philanthropist who prefers to remain anonymous.

“When I came on board, a study had already been done, which did include some focus groups made up of residents. But I believe we do need more input from the people who live in the area and the stakeholders,” she says.

The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus is located right in the middle of the Fruit Belt, so there is a great opportunity to rehabilitate the area.

“The key idea is that the BNMC is a force for energy and resources. What we want to do is capture the wealth in the area, instead of having the people who work there come in and go back to the suburbs,” Bergen says.

The study identified four objectives: rehabilitation of the existing homes, most of which were built in the early 1900s and have a unique historic German heritage; construction of new homes which will fit in with the existing housing; establishing commercial and social districts that will provide goods and services to the employees of the BNMC and to the residents of the Fruit Belt; and improving the infrastructure—the sidewalks, roads, and aging sewer systems in the area.

Bergen has been working with the Fruit Belt Development Corporation, a group of residents and stakeholders, and facilitating cooperation with other development interests such as St. John’s Baptist Church, which has already been active in redeveloping the area.

“It is really a cooperative effort,” Bergen says. “As Rev. Michael Chapman from St. John’s says, there’s a lot of work to be done—so there’s no need to be competitive.”

Atheria Ware, president and founder of the Fruit Belt Block Club, has been working on improving the neighborhood for the past fifteen years. Now she is collaborating with Bergen and the BNMC.

“We have been able to organize people to help clean up on a street by street basis,” she says. “That inspired the people who live here to clean up their own yards—then the banks helped us buy lawnmowers and tools to keep the open areas planted and neat. It’s been a hard struggle, but I’ve enjoyed it.”

Last year the BNMC donated $1,500 for beautification—and the presence of Bergen has been a great help in keeping the lines of communication and cooperation open, Ware said.

“I think it’s for the good of everyone. The people of the medical corridor want to come downtown instead of being in the suburbs.”

There is a concern about gentrification. According to Ware, some residents believe the new people coming in will want to move the long-term residents out. And that is part of what Bergen is working on.

It’s important, Bergen feels, that the residents of the area determine what it will look like in ten years. For that reason, she has been working with the Fruit Belt Development Corporation to strengthen the organization. Currently it is applying for 501(c)(3) status, so the group can apply for grant monies to help in the redevelopment process.

Alethea Davis, president of the Development Corporation, understands the difficulties in getting people involved and working together at a very personal level.

“A major problem is that many of the residents are older, some tired, many apathetic. I would love to get more young people with creative ideas involved.”

Bergen, Davis says, has been helping the organization put a picture together of what they want and also helping them galvanize forces.

“We want the community to drive the whole thing, not to expect outside influences to do it,” she says. “That’s the way we can restore faith in ourselves.”

There are approximately 500 vacant lots in the Fruit Belt, and St. John Baptist Church has proposed building around 300 new homes in the area. Rehabilitation will be more difficult and expensive, because the older homes have asbestos and lead paint.

“Additionally, many are renter-occupied, so that’s a challenge,” Bergen says.

The first issue is to begin managing the vacant lots and School 37—Futures Academy—has already become involved in that effort. The students provided a chalk diagram of a proposed garden across the street from the school to the Urban Design students at the University. The college students converted the diagram to a plan that could be followed by a landscaper, and last summer saw the garden come to fruition.

“It was just great to see something go from such a simple concept to the real thing,” Bergen says.

The spirit of cooperation between the neighborhood and the BNMC has extended to a series of field trips for students.

“Dr. Hauptman (of the Hauptman Woodward Institute), is interested in strengthening the school,” she says. “He has spoken at the school, and the idea behind the field trips is to show students the wide range of career opportunities at the medical corridor. It’s not all doctors and research scientists.”

As Bergen points out, the Fruit Belt is a great location—there’s easy access to public transportation, it’s right next door to downtown, and, with the medical campus, there’s an opportunity to capitalize on the great human resources the City of Buffalo has to offer. Development of the area has provided the former litigator with just the right niche.

“My legal training has given me advocacy and negotiation skills that are great for doing community development work,” Bergen says, “And it’s much more rewarding.”

Donna I. Evans is a writer and public relations specialist based in Western New York.

A scientist-administrator explains
how the BNMC will help Buffalo
By Donna I. Evans

George T. DeTitta, Ph.D. is principle research scientist, executive director, and CEO of the Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute, Inc. As he sees it, there are two major challenges to be faced in creating a productive relationship between the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and the neighborhoods surrounding it.

George T. DeTitta
George T. DeTitta, Ph.D., executive director, and
CEO of the Hauptman-Woodward Medical
Research Institute.
Photo by Jim Bush.

“As the campus develops, we don’t want it to become a Chinese wall separating the Fruit Belt from Allentown,” he says. “Another goal is to develop long-term employment in the neighborhoods.”

DeTitta sits on the board of directors for the Medical Campus, which has been involved in the master planning for the area. These board members, including people like Jan Peters, executive director of the Buffalo Federation of Neighborhood Centers, Inc., are working to ensure there is collaboration between the campus and the surrounding neighborhoods.

“In the short term, there will be approximately 450,000 square feet of new lab space built—so there’ll be two to three years of construction which will employ people,” he says. “The hope is to go from the building stage to providing permanent work for people from all neighborhoods.”

The major hirer will be the University at Buffalo, but that employment will be for highly skilled scientific jobs, and many of them will go to out-of-town people, according to DeTitta.

“Hauptman Woodward, for example, now has about sixty people and we will go to about a hundred. But most will be technical staff—we have very little support staff—just about every dollar we get goes into the research.”

One of the ways to change this tendency to recruit brainpower from out of town is to inspire more local students to go into scientific fields. A natural partnership between Hauptman Woodward, Literacy Volunteers, and the Buffalo Science Museum is already working on that.

“We have to get kids to understand science is an exciting life and is rewarding on every level—intellectually and financially—and it’s a career you can have for life and feel good about the work that you do,” DeTitta says. “But it’s going to be a long haul. We have to start in the grammar schools.”

There are a number of ways to stimulate students’ interest in science. For example, recently the Science Museum and nine scientists from the community met with a group of high school students. The students spent the entire day with the scientists, working with them in small groups so the experience was a very personal one.

DeTitta says his main role at Hauptman Woodward is not as a scientist, but to provide an environment where the scientists at the lab can focus just on their projects, because that is how they are able to do the best job.

“We want to get input from our scientists and invite them to participate in peripheral ways, but we don’t want them to spend their days concerned about the progress of campus development,” he says.

With the support of a very capable staff, he also, however, is able to continue to conduct hands-on research of his own—even though much of his time is taken up by administrative tasks and the upcoming building projects.

It is DeTitta’s hope that the BNMC will have a positive impact on the city on many levels, and that those who come to work there will choose to live in the city instead of the suburbs.

“There was a time when people didn’t think twice about it, they went right to the suburbs—they didn’t see the city as an option. People now think of living either closer to the city or in the city.

“If the developers succeed with what they are planning—beautiful apartments and affordable housing—people will choose to live downtown,” he says.

There is a lot of support for the Life Science Complex, but that is just one of the pieces that have to come together, DeTitta says.

“The suggestion in the community is that this could be the economic driver for the city—but in the long-term it’s not the 300 highly technical jobs—it’s the many more jobs created as the technicians settle into locations near the campus.”

What the planners would like to see, he says, are companies of five and ten employees expanding to fifty and 100 people. Ideally there would be tens of those small companies in the beginning, growing to number in the fifties.

“That is what will provide good paying jobs that are not technical—bookkeepers, executive assistants, purchasing agents. The whole thing really works when you get that mix—not strictly research.”

Education will still be an important component, he says, which means strengthening the Buffalo schools. High school diplomas will be the minimum requirement, with non-technical college degrees following. And they don’t have to be from the University at Buffalo; Erie County Community College can also play a strong role.

“We’ll see progress and it will be in a number of different forms—but it will all ultimately contribute to the city,” DeTitta says.

Donna I. Evans is a writer and public relations specialist based in Western New York.


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