Kaleida Health has started the process of determining the future of Millard Fillmore Gates Circle Hospital and the nearly 10-acre site that has anchored Buffalo's Delaware District for the past century.
Part of the process includes a series of advisory panel discussions and meetings, set to begin Sunday and last most of next week in both public and private gatherings. Kaleida has retained the Urban Land Institute along with Robert Shibley, dean of the University at Buffalo's School of Architecture and Planning and Bradshaw Hovey, co-director of UB's Urban Design Project to run the sessions.
Included in the sessions is a "Meet the Panel" community forum, set for March 28 at the Avant Building.
"We're hoping to gather some information and see if there is an emerging consensus," said Ted Walsh, Kaleida's immediate past chairman and head of the Gates Circle Steering Committee.
Hospital functions will be gradually phased out beginning this fall and shifted to the Global Vacsular Institute currently under construction in the heart of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. All of Gates Circles functions should be completely moved to the GVI by spring 2012.
Millard Fillmore Gates Circle has been at the Gates Circle site since 1911. With various additions constructed over the decades, the building has more than 800,000-square-feet.
Walsh said Kaleida is open to suggestions about the fate of the hospital and property.
Tom Eitler, Urban Land Institute vice president, said community input is key.
"We seek possibilities and opportunities that might have been overlooked," Eitler said. "The advisory panel program is all about seeing things in a different way."
The Urban Land Institute worked with local officials on the re-use plan for the H.H. Richardson Towers next to the Buffalo State College campus.
Kaleida will use comments to shape its RFP process that will go out to the development community later this year.
"We want to be guided by the community and do that before it (the building and property) gets into the hands of a developer," Walsh said.
The comments will be reviewed by Walsh's committee whose members include civic leaders Howard Zemsky and Holly Donaldson, the Rev. Matthew Brown and Brendan Mehaffy, Buffalo's economic development point man.
Walsh said the committee is looking for ideas and input as opposed to definitive answers about the fate of the Millard Fillmore Gates Circle building and property.
"The process won't necessarily answer that question," Walsh said. "Those answers will probably come from the RFP's and how developers respond."
Public input may dissuade neighbors from stopping whatever future development may be targeted for the property. It may also gauge if there is interest in redeveloping the site.
"We are trying to avoid Gates Circle becoming another Statler or AM&As," Walsh said.