Building on our history to construct our future
Visitors to UB often wonder how we came to have two campuses, and even longtime members of our university and Buffalo communities are not wholly acquainted with the history of how the North Campus came to be built in Amherst. As early as the 1950s, additional space was an obvious need. That need intensified as UB prepared for its 1962 merger with the SUNY system, evolving from private institution into public state university.
"At the time of the decision to merge, we greatly broadened our horizons [as] anyone who truly understands the idea of a university must inevitably do," former Chancellor Clifford Furnas noted in his memoirs, observing that UB "kept looking forward to the future throughout this transition."
Beginning the process of building for this future, available acreage was identified three miles north, on Ellicott Creek in Amherst. By 1960, UB had acquired 246 acres but had no concrete plans for its use—the land was generally considered a future site for athletics grounds and facilities. "Also," Chancellor Furnas speculated, "it would make quite an acceptable place for building student residences."
After extensive public consultation, the SUNY trustees concluded that a new Amherst campus was the preferred solution. Expanding the current location was not then viewed favorably by local officials, and an external engineering firm projected that all available waterfront space would be consumed by 1974. Accordingly, the UB Council voted to build in Amherst, and the SUNY trustees officially approved this proposal on February 9, 1967. On the same date, a Buffalo News editorial entitled "Now Let's Build It" declared, "Before this outcome became known, the News had urged that whatever the final decision, the community close ranks behind it and ‘push hard to get this great university going.' We repeat this now with even greater force."
We have achieved phenomenal growth on this campus in a short time, while building great momentum for UB and Western New York. Today, the acreage Chancellor Furnas described in his memoirs is a vibrant campus community whose strikingly modern buildings contrast with the historically distinguished architecture of our South Campus. To keep pace with our expanding student population and major program developments, we have continually striven to develop this campus wisely and well. Since 1998, without state funding, we have built five apartment-style student housing complexes, which have transformed our North Campus into a true residential academic community. In keeping with this vision, the latest of our North Campus building efforts is the proposed Lee Road complex, a unique fusion of commercial and residential facilities linking the Joseph Ellicott Complex and the main academic spine.
Plans for the Lee Road complex include space for retail venues; student housing; faculty, staff and alumni space; visitor and conference centers; guest lodging; health care; and sports and activity centers. We envision Lee Road becoming the lively, diverse neighborhood at the heart of our main undergraduate campus. Structurally, the complex will function as the final important chapter in UB's North Campus master plan. Symbolically, Lee Road will link the North Campus—and the entire UB community—with the external communities we serve.
Even as we look forward to Lee Road, we progress with our South Campus master plan. Home to the state's most comprehensive and advanced destination for medical and health-care education, as well as our innovative architecture school, our South Campus represents both UB's distinguished past and our future as a major, modern public research institution. Plans are in the works for a renovation of Goodyear and Clement Halls, with perhaps more student housing to come. Ultimately, our goal is to develop the South Campus as a cutting-edge center for research, while preserving and restoring its elegant 1920s aesthetic.
With your support, we will continue to heed Chancellor Furnas's message to "look forward to the future," strategically developing our great university in ways that both honor our distinguished history and lay a firm foundation for the bright future ahead.
William R. Greiner