Ciminelli mulls more development on medical campus

July 11, 2014 Updated Jul 11, 2014 at 8:43 AM EDT

By WKBW News
By Tracey Drury, Buffalo Business First Reporter

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July 11, 2014 Updated Jul 11, 2014 at 8:43 AM EDT

It took 20 years and lots of patience before the timing was right for Ciminelli Real Estate Corp. to build at 50 High St., the $110 million Buffalo project known now as Conventus.

It's not likely to take that long for the company's next major development.

While plans are still preliminary, Ciminelli executives confirm they've begun exploring the possibility of developing a 250,000-square-foot facility across the street at 33 High, the site of the former Langston Hughes Center that's currently in use as a construction field office for three projects on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

"It took a long time to build Conventus there and it was his patient money that allowed the inventory to be held there. When the market was finally there and other activity was there, we were positioned in a place where we could put a building on the site," said Dennis Penman, executive vice president of the development company. "That's sort of where we are with the Langston-Hughes site, but we know it won't be 20 years this time. There's enough market movement that we'll be able to develop in a shorter time frame."

The Conventus project, a seven-story, 350,000-square-foot building slated for opening in early 2015, will house an ambulatory surgery center for Women & Children's Hospital and patient space and offices for UBMD, as well as labs for Albany Molecular Research Inc.

Penman said the company acquired 33 High a few years ago with the intention of using it as inventory to build when the time was right. And with fewer and fewer parcels available for development on the medical campus, that purchase was another good bet.

"The success of the overall campus is such that maybe the boundaries of what the Buffalo Medical Campus becomes will be expanded as time passes," he said. "There does seem to be some pressure at least at the High Street epicenter of available inventory to build on."

But exactly what will be built at 33 High is far from finalized. Ciminelli has done some internal planning and had some conversations with clients, including the University at Buffalo, Kaleida Health and others. The next step will be anticipating what future institutional needs might exist, and what commercial tenants might be available down the road that would fit into the space, which will likely be designed for education, clinical and research needs.

There's a chance the existing building may remain on the site, but more than likely it would come down to make room for a structure of about 250,000 square feet with some underground parking.

"There's enough activity there around what's happening with Children's and UB that we think there's a market there," Penman said.

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