A Tour Inside Richardson-Olmsted Complex

May 2, 2014 Updated May 2, 2014 at 6:20 PM EDT

By WKBW News

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May 2, 2014 Updated May 2, 2014 at 6:20 PM EDT

BUFFALO (WKBW) From medical, to historical, to redevelopment, the Richardson Olmsted Complex near the campus of Buffalo State College is much more than two foreboding looking towers. And for those who have only seen the building from the outside, Eyewitness news got a rare peek inside.

Opening in 1880 as the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane, the outside of the building and its dark Medina sandstone may look more like a medieval castle than a medical treatment facility. But head inside and the script changes completely.

"The buildings were very thoughtfully designed with these really wide hallways with many many windows looking out onto the landscape. So the landscape itself was integrated into the design of the building and vice versa," Thomas Herrera-Mishler of the Olmsted Parks Conservancy said.

Eyewitness News reporter Jason Gruenauer took a guided tour of the complex, seeing old patient rooms, up winding staircases, and into rooms that needed plenty of work. But they soon will be transformed thanks to millions of dollars in state aid.

"This first phase of redevelopment of the buildings, it's going to be transformed into an 88 room hotel, and it's going to be an event and conference center, and it's going to have an architecture center, and landscape architecture in Buffalo, and then send people out to see it," Monica Pellegrino Faix of the Richardson Center Corporation said.

The first phase takes up the main administration building, with the hotel split between the neighboring two buildings. The goal is to fill the remaining buildings of the complex with private development, to take a historic landmark and put it back to good use.

"So people were cared for in this building at the outset. Now it'll be a different kind of care and hospitality project," Pellegrino Faix said.

Groundbreaking is expected in the next few months, and should take two years to complete.

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