Buffalo State’s neighbor gets new face

A month after the completion of the South Lawn, many people are now aware of the redevelopment taking place at the Richardson Olmsted Complex.

What many people are not aware of is how this will impact SUNY Buffalo State, one of its closest neighbors.

Built in the late 19th century as the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane, and later renamed the Buffalo State Hospital, the complex was designed by H. H. Richardson and Frederick Law Olmsted, two of America’s most renowned architects. In 1986, the site became a National Historic Landmark.

The hospital was shut down in the 1970s and the site was completely abandoned in the 1990s. It had fallen into such disrepair that in 1999 the National Trust for Historic Preservation listed the complex as one of the nation’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

Now, the nonprofit Richardson Center Corporation is redeveloping the site.

Announced in January 2013, the first phase of the redevelopment will utilize one-third of the available space on the site. It will repurpose the Towers Administration Building and two ward buildings, creating a boutique hotel, conference and event center, and an architecture center.

Phase One also includes the renovation of the South Lawn and the creation of a new road between Rockwell Road and Rees Street.

“The first phase will transform the former Buffalo State Hospital from a place of healing to one of hospitality,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a press release.

It will also create a partnership opportunity for Buffalo State.

The Richardson Center Corporation and Buffalo State have discussed the possibility of internships for hospitality students.

“One of the exciting things is the ability for the hotel to partner with the college for internships,” said Monica Pellegrino Faix, executive director of the RCC.

She added that the internships would be especially helpful for students who don’t have access to transportation, due to its location near the college.

Besides internships, there have also been discussions about the college using buildings on the site for residencies or classrooms. Additionally, the conference center and hotel would be available to the college and its visitors.

Also affecting the college, however, is the ownership of the complex. The state is currently in the process of transferring ownership to the RCC. When that is complete, the RCC will own parts of the current Buffalo State campus — including Lot G, one of the largest student parking lots.

Pellegrino Faix stated that there are no current plans to modify the use of those areas. She added that if that were to change in the future, the college would be given ample notice.

The surrounding community has been heavily involved in the project. The RCC holds regular public meetings to announce and discuss updates to the project.

Christine Krolewicz, assistant project manager at the RCC and Buffalo State alum, added that officials from both Buffalo State and nearby Buffalo Psychiatric Center have attended the meetings to offer input.

Interim President of Buffalo State Howard Cohen regularly attends the meetings. Former presidents Muriel Howard and the late Aaron Podolefsky were members of the RCC board. The center’s community advisory group also includes students from Buffalo State.

Community involvement is as important as ever as the RCC celebrates the official opening of the South Lawn on Sept. 28 with landscape tours, live music, and games.

“We wanted to have this event so that people could come and enjoy the area, and know that it’s open to the public,” Pellegrino Faix said. “We wanted to thank the public.”

Construction of the main buildings is set to begin in spring of 2014, and will last two years. In the meantime, the public is welcomed to visit the South Lawn, to get a taste of what is to come.


Autumn Evans can be reached by email at [email protected]