March 22, 2016, was a fine day to be a Bull. Hundreds of UB community members, along with state and city dignitaries and public onlookers, gathered downtown to watch as a single steel beam—painted white and blue and festooned with an American flag and a small evergreen tree—rose to the top of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences construction site. As the beam settled into position, workers gave a thumbs-up and the crowd burst into cheers. The topping-out ceremony not only marked a time-honored building tradition, but also was a milestone event for UB and Buffalo.
Days before, a beam-signing attracted crowds to the South Campus. Under an outdoor tent to protect it from the elements, the beam held court as lines of medical students past and present, plus local politicians, UB officials and members of the community, showed up to put their names on the steel with permanent markers. (At Buffalo added our own “Onward and upward!” message.)
The signed beam was among the last of more than 7,000 that support eight floors and 628,000 square feet of the future medical school building, which will house extensive research and teaching space, walkways connecting nearby Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus buildings, an expanded patient-care training center and a light rail station. Once the steel construction is complete, the building’s permanent roof will be added and then its outer envelope, including its unique terra-cotta skin. Every day, roughly 300 workers buzz about the construction site, the largest capital project in the university’s 170-year history. That number should grow in the coming months as workers in the trades finish the building’s interior.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo ended the upbeat event on a playful yet important note: “This new medical campus will further cement the University at Buffalo’s position as a national leader in the delivery of quality, affordable health care.”