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Spectrum Health moving forward with $14 million rehab for blizzard-battered Buffalo site

Buffalo News

Spectrum Health & Human Services’ location at 1280 Main St. in Buffalo, pictured here in early April 2023, was badly damaged in the December 2022 blizzard that hit Western New York.

Jon Harris

With Spectrum Health & Human Services making progress on a three-phase, $14 million rehabilitation of its largest location, the behavioral health provider’s president and CEO recently thought back to the moment she discovered the damage – when it was far from guaranteed that the 120-year-old structure in Buffalo could be saved.

Cindy Voelker remembers driving with her husband on Christmas night, the couple maneuvering their four-wheel drive vehicle down Main Street after one of the building’s systems had been triggered during the blizzard.

As they arrived and parked in front of the three-story building at 1280 Main St., Voelker saw water gushing out of the structure’s windows.

“When we got into the building, you could just hear water flowing down the stairwells and into the place,” she said. “It was obvious that it was seriously damaged.”

The couple managed to find their way to the maintenance room to turn off the water supply, but the damage was done. At some point during the blizzard, the deadly combination of 70-plus mph winds and bitter cold caused a third-floor window to break, which led nearby sprinkler system lines to rupture. Over a period of roughly 48 hours, about 129,000 gallons of water flowed through the building.

While demolition of the 40,000-square-foot structure was an option, Voelker said Spectrum Health’s architect and contractor found the building remained structurally sound.

“We decided that it was a good investment to redo and bring the building back,” she said.

Project update

Spectrum Health and general contractor Ehrhart Development Group are pressing forward, with the project’s first phase, a $1.1 million remediation, finalized and the second phase now starting, Voelker said.

The $6.9 million second phase, estimated to take around 18 months, will be extensive, including repointing and repairing the brick exterior, replacing decades-old windows, installing a new heating and cooling system, and rebuilding and outfitting the first and second floors.

A third phase will follow, focused on building out the upper floor and basement, performing site improvements and installing furniture, fixtures and equipment.

As work continues, Voelker said Spectrum Health also is getting clarity on how much insurance will cover. As of now, Voelker said insurance will cover about $7 million, or only about half of the rehabilitation project.

Spectrum Health, which has annual revenue of about $37 million, is looking around at potential grants from the state or from area foundations and may also weigh a capital campaign to raise funds to cover the remaining project costs, she said.

A crucial location

Unable to use the 1280 Main St. building, Spectrum Health relocated clinical and case management staff to the third floor of the St. Vincent de Paul Society’s building at 1298 Main St.

After a $240,000 investment into that space, Spectrum Health said it has entered into a two-year lease for that location, providing continuity while work progresses at its 1280 Main St. building.

The 1280 Main St. building is among Spectrum Health’s most crucial locations.

Before the blizzard damage, the building was home to Spectrum Health’s certified community behavioral health clinic; care coordination and walk-in clinic services; the Erie County Assertive Community Team; Forensic Reentry Services; and OMH and HUD Supportive Housing services.

It was also the home base for 125 of Spectrum Health’s staff members, which is more than one-third of the provider’s total employee count of 340.

It’s among the reasons why Spectrum Health opted to rehabilitate the blizzard-battered structure, an important location in its footprint to meet the demand for the behavioral health services.

“There’s just right now a lot of need for expanding services and access for people for mental health and addiction,” Voelker said. “That’s why we’re trying to get back into that building in that location as quickly as possible.”



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