BUFFALO, NY (BUSINESS FIRST OF BUFFALO) -- Rep. Brian Higgins said he expects to meet Tuesday with University at Buffalo President John Simpson in an effort to convince him to move the UB Law School into the soon-to-be mothballed Statler Towers in downtown Buffalo.
The meeting comes as UB is ramping up on its massive "UB 2020" development plan that will see the university increase its footprint in Buffalo, mostly near the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, and as Gov. David Paterson is proposing to give more fiscal independence.
Bringing UB's law school to downtown is not a new idea, Higgins conceded. The idea has been proposed to the university several times during the past few decades and in each instance, the plan never left the preliminary stages.
"I understand that UB has taken serious looks in the past," Higgins said. "But, 'no' is not the end of the discussion, it is the beginning. Anything worth fighting for is a tough climb."
UB officials will need to be convinced, however, as plans are already being formulated to expand the law school on the university's South campus.
Any redevelopment would be pricey. Most estimates peg renovations for the Statler in the $100 million range.
The Higgins-Simpson meeting, which the congressman announced Saturday morning during a news conference in Niagara Square, comes as efforts to find a buyer for the 18-story historic landmark have been relaunched. The Statler was placed into involuntary Chapter 11 protection last spring and after one group, New Buffalo Statler Redevelopment, failed to close on their $1.3 million bid.
After offering four delayed closing dates to New Buffalo Statler Redevelopment, U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Carl Bucki ordered the building be shut down, a process that began earlier this week and should be completed in the next few days.
In the meantime, bankruptcy court-appointed trustee Morris Horwitz and his special counsel, Hodgson Russ partner Garry Graber continue to field offers for the Statler, mostly from out-of-town groups. No firm offer has been made as of Saturday morning.
Higgins said there is at least one local precedent where a historic downtown building was saved and restored by an educational institution. The former main U.S. Post Office on Oak Street, which closed in the early 1970s, was resurrected a decade later as the city campus for Erie Community College.
"This is possible," Higgins said.
The congressman noted the Statler across the street from the $130 million federal courthouse that's due to open next winter. He said 43 of the region's largest law firms have offices in downtown Buffalo.
UB's law school is the only law school in the SUNY system.
"It should be located in the law hub," Higgins said.
The law school has 740 students and 57 teachers.
The Statler, he said, should be renovated into classrooms, teacher's offices and dorm rooms. It will provide additional critical mass to downtown at a time when the central business district is seeing its own resurgence.
"The relationship between the university and its city is symbotic," Higgins said.
Higgins said UB is also playing off of the symbotic relationship by increasing its medical school and research components in the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
"If it makes sense for them, why would it not be the same for the law school?" Higgins asked.
Check-out the full article on the Business First website by clicking here.