Innovation 2 next for Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus

February 19, 2014 Updated Feb 19, 2014 at 8:45 AM EDT

By Dan Miner, Reporter- Business First

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Innovation 2 next for Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus

February 19, 2014 Updated Feb 19, 2014 at 8:45 AM EDT

The next high-profile project on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus is taking shape - with an expected completion date by early 2017.

Innovation Center 2 will be a partnership between Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus Inc. and a chosen developer, for which a request for qualifications is being finalized, should be submitted in the coming weeks. The cost of the development has not been determined.

BNMC is hoping applications for the project come in from around the world. The developer will be expected to help BNMC hone important details such as the siting and design of Innovation Center 2.

The 200,000-square-foot project will be a similar mix to its predecessor - the Thomas R. Beecher Jr. Innovation Center - with incubator space for startups and built-to-spec offices and laboratories for more established companies.

A simulated hospital will be constructed there, an initiative that already includes more than 20 partners.

Two sites are far-and-away the most likely for the project, said Patrick Whalen, BNMC chief operating officer. They include:

• The city-owned parking garage facing Ellicott Street, between Goodrich and E. North streets. The site has long been tied to the Innovation Center 2 project and is in the red hot northwest corner of the campus, where Ciminelli Real Estate Corp's Conventus (more than $110 million), the University at Buffalo's medical school ($375 million) and Kaleida Health's John R. Oishei Children's Hospital ($244 million) will all come online in the next few years.

BNMC has been in talks with the city about acquiring the site for months now. The current parking garage would have to be demolished and another one built in its place that could support the Innovation Center 2 on the upper floors.

• The Ellicott Street parking lot across from the current Innovation Center. BNMC officials expect the lot to turn into a development eventually, and it has become an oft-mentioned contingency for medical campus projects if the preferred location doesn't work out.

Parking will be a necessary part of the project, since it is likely to be on the footprint of a parking garage or lot in the parking-squeezed campus. BNMC officials already do not expect the campus to have enough parking to accommodate the influx of students, employees and patients in the coming years, and are working to encourage homeownership along the metro line.

The Innovation Center 2 project has become increasingly necessary as its predecessor has gotten squeezed and then completely run out of space in recent years, Whalen said. The bottom three floors function as an accelerator for established businesses while the fourth floor is mostly incubator space.

Projects on the medical campus have been settling into place recently after uncertainty regarding the fates of several developers and companies.

• BNMC has been busy signing up tenants for 847 Main St., often associated with former tenant, SmartPill Corp. BNMC recently acquired the space from The Krog Corp. The state-sponsored advanced manufacturing institute is leasing 10,000 square feet of space there and will likely stay for 2-3 years.

• Albany Molecular Research Inc., which was first slated for the Innovation Center, then for Innovation Center 2, then for the Innovation Center Annex, has found a temporary home at the Jacobs Institute while the state sinks $50 million into a high-tech lab on the top floor of Conventus, to be used by AMRI.

• The Krog Corp. has been granted "designated developer" by the city for the sprawling former Trico plant and expects to finalize purchase of the parcel in the coming months.

Krog scoured the campus for a roughly 140-room extended stay hotel before settling on Trico, which has considerably more room than necessary for that one project. Housing medical firms and developing residential space have also been mentioned in connection with the Trico project.

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