Congressman Brian Higgins joined members of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and the Allentown Association to call for the creation of a western gateway to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC).
"Buffalo has a bit of a history of sitting back and waiting for good things to come," said Congressman Higgins. "The days of waiting are over. The rapid growth of the Medical Campus brings exciting new opportunities for Buffalo and Western New York. We must act urgently to harness the good things happening here. There is great potential for local business and job growth as well as quality of life enhancements. Improvements to the western gateway would tap into that potential and significantly benefit the Allentown community. Now let's get to work."
Federal funding totaling $6 million was secured for the BNMC in 2005. Additional state and local resources bring total funds available to $6.8 million. The scope of that project has changed and it is anticipated that about $2 million will be needed for improvements to the public right of way with enhanced amenities for pedestrians from Washington Street to North Oak Street leaving more than $4 million for additional uses. An additional $100,000 is already included in the City of Buffalo's 2012-2013 Capital Budget for design work for the Allen Street Improvement Project.
Congressman Higgins is pushing for the BNMC to work with the Allentown Association and greater community to repurpose the remaining federal funding to provide a welcoming and walkable district along Allen Street and Main Street corridor to the BNMC.
"The Allentown Association commends Congressman Higgins for his support of the Allen Street Improvement Project and the Western Gateway," Allentown Association President Ed Castine said. "We look forward to continuing to work with Congressman, the BNMC and the City of Buffalo on what we ultimately hope will be a total refurbishment of Allen Street that will significantly enhance the destination that Allen Street has become so the Allentown community and small businesses can benefit from being at the doorstep of the burgeoning medical campus and very soon the U.B. Medical School."
Higgins says all partners must move urgently since unspent federal funding is always at risk of being redirected for other federal needs. Higgins' office has made some initial inquiries with the Federal Highway Administration and believes this will be an appropriate and acceptable use of the federal funding. Higgins, the BNMC and the Allentown Association plan to work with the Greater Buffalo-Niagara Regional Transportation Council, which oversees the expenditure of public transportation dollars, to move this project forward.
Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus President & CEO Matt Enstice added, "The success of the medical campus as a catalyst for economic development will not just take place within the member institutions, but will also spillover into surrounding neighborhoods. This project will facilitate that and reassert the importance of sustainability - both in supporting the built environment that already exists and leveraging new investment to create a modern, walkable environment unlike anything buffalo has seen in this post-industrial era."
"I understand that for the future growth of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus we must continue to connect the campus with the Allentown Community. That's why we've partnered, over the years, to create the "Four Neighborhoods One Community' plan with the Medical Campus, Allentown and Fruitbelt communities and the City of Buffalo," said Mayor Byron W. Brown. "And just last year, we added $100,000 in funding for the planning of streetscape improvements and the design of Allen Street."
The Allentown District includes approximately 1,300 homes and businesses and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The University at Buffalo will soon begin construction of a new medical school at Main and Allen Streets set for completion in 2016. Higgins believes this gateway project will provide an important linkage between the growing Medical Campus, the neighborhood and business district.
"We need to lay the groundwork now for the critical mass coming to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus," Higgins said. "Today more than 8,000 people work on the Medical Campus but within a matter of just a few years the number of daily visitors is expected to more than double to over 17,000 people."
The BNMC Board of Directors is supportive of such efforts and on June 14, 2012 unanimously approved a resolution backing "streetscape and infrastructure improvements that will help knit together the Medical Campus and the Allentown neighborhood."