Weekly Feature

2017-12-13 / Education

New downtown home of Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB opens

Sixty-four years after moving to the University at Buffalo’s South Campus, the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences has returned to downtown Buffalo.

The massive $375 million, 628,000-square-foot building officially opened at 955 Main St., just steps from where it was located from 1893 to 1953.

The building was the first to receive NYSUNY 2020 Challenge Grant funding through NYSUNY 2020, legislation that was signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2011. The initiative has spurred economic growth across the state and strengthened the academic programs of New York’s public universities and colleges. The mission of the NYSUNY 2020 program is to elevate SUNY as a catalyst for regional economic development and affordable education.

“Western New York’s transformation into a national health sciences hub continues to grow as the new Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences building opens its doors to the future leaders of 21st century medicine, research and technology,” Cuomo said. “By moving this state-of-the-art facility downtown, we strengthen Buffalo’s economy while helping to ensure the city’s growth and development continues strong.”

Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown noted that the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences will bring more than 2,000 students, faculty and staff to the heart of downtown Buffalo.

The new building allows the Jacobs School to expand its class size by 25 percent, from 144 to 180 students, training many more doctors to address local and national physician shortages. This year, the Jacobs School admitted its first class of 180 students; by 2021, the school’s enrollment will reach 720 students.

That expansion, in turn, boosts UB’s ability to recruit and retain world-class faculty with medical expertise in specialties that the region sorely lacks so that Western New Yorkers do not have to leave town for specialty care.

The move of the Jacobs School to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus bolsters the city’s biomedical sector as a catalyst for regional economic development. Medical innovations will result from increased synergies with the clinical and research partners on the medical campus, in turn, creating new medical technologies and spinoff businesses.

Deliberately positioned as a “gateway” to the medical campus, the building features a pedestrian walkway from Allen Street and the vibrant Allentown neighborhood to Washington Street.

The building’s sustainable features include bicycles available to rent in the walkway and the NFTA Metro station, which is located under the building, a first for Buffalo, so that the public can readily access the medical campus from the Allen/Medical Campus station.

A 32-foot tall, two-story light tower at the Main and High streets entrance functions as the building’s signature feature, a beacon, often lit in UB blue, but which can beam virtually any color, which architects intended as emblematic of the school’s return to its downtown roots. Just upstairs, on the second floor, in a more concrete nod to the historic past of the Jacobs School, hangs a pair of lanterns. Originally gaslights, they illuminated the High Street medical school lobby from 1893 until 1953 when the medical school moved to the UB South Campus on Main Street. The lanterns were restored by Ewa Stachowiak, assistant professor in the Department of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences and Brian Koyn, in the UB health sciences fabrication department who used a 3D printer to restore missing and decaying lantern pieces with exact replicas of the original metalwork.

Through its classrooms and open spaces called learning landscapes, the Jacobs School’s new building promotes collaborative interactions among faculty and students. Its huge, open seven story, light-filled atrium, comprising more than 19,000 feet of glass, fosters collegiality and a strong sense of community.

A key educational attribute of the building is its emphasis on active learning classrooms, which contain triangular tables that are fully electronic so that any student, even in a class of 180, can not only contribute but also present data to the entire group with the touch of a button.

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