Last night, the Richardson Center Corporation (RCC) hosted a public hearing on the Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS) and the General Project Plan (GPP) for the reuse and rehabilitation of the Richardson-Olmsted complex. Both documents have been completed and officially accepted by Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC). The documents are available for download at the project website.
The 2009 Master Plan defined the project and was prepared by the RCC, which is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization that is spearheading the redevelopment of the historic Buffalo landmark. Funding for the project is being administered by ESDC.
The purpose of the DGEIS and the General Project Plan is to identify the potential for any significant environmental issues or impacts, identify appropriate mitigation measures for those impacts, and to identify the sources and uses of all state funds associated with the project. Representatives from the RCC Board and from consulting firm Parsons Brinkerhoff were on hand last night to review the overall project plan and highlight the main findings of the DGEIS.
The Richardson-Olmsted Complex marks the most ambitious historic rehabilitation the City has seen since the Darwin Martin complex, with an estimated cost of over $100 million dollars for the build-out of the core project. Funds are expected to come from several sources, including the State of New York, State Historic Tax Credits, and private foundations.
The former Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane was designed by architect Henry Hobson Richardson with the grounds being created by landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. The entire complex of buildings and grounds, with its signature Gothic/Romanesque towers, is a National Historic Landmark. The Buffalo Psychiatric Center continues operating in modern buildings on the site.
The project began construction in 1870 and took about 20 years to complete. In 1927 the northwestern section of the 203-acre original campus was cut in half and the farmland was developed as Buffalo State College. In 1969 the three brick buildings on the east wing were demolished for construction of a new adolescent treatment facility. The last patients were moved out in 1974, one year after the complex achieved both state and national landmark status. Administrative functions continued to occupy the central section of the complex until the early 1990’s.
Over the past 6-7 years, stabilization efforts have kept the remaining structures standing. in 2006, Governor George Pataki allocated $100 million to rehabilitate the Complex but some of it was used to fund the Burchfield-Penney Art Center and the Darwin Martin House Visitor Center. The remaining $76.5 million is intended for the Complex.
The work so far has been primariliy focused on stabilization and generating reports, including the following:
- Urban Land Institute Advisory Panel Report;
- Historic Structures Report by Boston architectural firm Goody Clancy;
- Cultural Landscape Report by Heritage Landscapes;
- Architecture and Visitor Center Visualized Concept Study by Ralph Appelbaum Associates;
- Architecture Center Feasibility Study by ConsultEcon; and
- Master Plan by Chan Krieger Sieniewicz.
Next steps for the project will hinge on the transfer of ownership of the currently State-owned property to the Richardson Complex Corporation, which will then allow the planned project work to proceed. City Zoning laws will also need to be amended to allow the proposed new uses to be developed on the site. First on the agenda is the restoration of the south lawn, removal of existing parking lots, and the development of a new entrance on the north side of the building facing Buffalo State College’s Campus. It is hoped that this work will be complete in time to be showcased during the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s national conference here in Buffalo in October 2011.
If you were not able to attend last night’s public hearing but would still like the opportunity to comment on either document, you may still submit written comments to ESDC up to 5pm on Monday, January 17th. Comments should be submitted to Paul Tronolone at this mailing address or via phone or email:
Empire State Development Corporation
95 Perry Street Buffalo, NY 14203
All of the reports completed so far are available on the project website or may be reviewed in person at the Central and Crane branches of the public library.
The next Public Meeting is scheduled for January 26th at Rockwell Hall on Buffalo State’s Elmwood Avenue campus to review the south lawn project.