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Buffalo is getting ready for another student-built home on a city-donated lot, this one on Arkansas Street, near Grant Street on the city's West Side.

"My kids were me driving me nuts. They couldn't wait to get started on the new house," said Jim Staebell, a McKinley High School carpentry teacher, shouting above a buzzing saw. He spearheads the projects with fellow carpentry teachers Joe Denne, Lou Visone and Tom Pace.

The success of the previous McKinley-built ranch house, transported by crane to its Sycamore Street lot not long ago, has paved the way for the latest hands-on learning project.

A 1,260-square-foot, three-bedroom, 1 1/2 -bath home was constructed inside the high school's carpentry loft. One of the young builders, Anthony Dellapenta, reported that there were no injuries, save "a couple of smashed fingers."

Students drafted blueprints, cut lumber, pounded nails, put up drywall, siding and roof shingles, installed plumbing and painted in the program, initiated by the Construction Industry Education Foundation.

Creating a whole house allows students "to work under a time schedule while solving real, practical problems they would encounter on a job site," said Staebell, a former McKinley student who worked in the construction industry for 22 years.

These workers "have made a significant and meaningful contribution to our city," Mayor Anthony M. Masiello said at an open house at 660 Sycamore St., on the corner of Sherman Street. A portion of the sale proceeds of the house, priced at $76,500, will be donated to the Western New York United Against Drug and Alcohol Abuse Foundation. There's also a subsidy of $25,000 available for qualified buyers, who could pick up a real bargain: a brand-new home for about $50,000.

The house, on a 92-foot-wide lot, should be attractive to first-time buyers, and it's near many other newly constructed homes and close to downtown, said Judy Benjamin of Stovroff Realty.

"It's centered around other new builds," said Bernie Taylor of Stovroff, who will be running another open house there from 1 to 3 p.m. today. "When older homes were torn down in the Ellicott District, new builds were put up in their place, which is remarkable and outstanding for our city. It greatly enhances this neighborhood."

This spring, the neighborhood will look even better when McKinley horticulture students, with teacher Tom Mitchell, provide sod and flowers for the outside of the house.

Involved in the projects are teachers such as Dave Griffin, Jim Laettner and Eileen Tscari, plus scores of Buffalo students from McKinley in carpentry, plumbing, sheet metal, air conditioning, horticulture, printing and photography classes. They team up with electrical students and their teacher, John Sierra, from Seneca Vocational High School, working with the Construction Exchange -- composed of hundreds of general contractors, subcontractors, suppliers, equipment dealers, and M&T Bank and other financial supporters.

"We want this program to live on for as long as McKinley offers its carpentry classes," said James C. Logan, secretary-treasurer of the Construction Industry Education Foundation, who is looking to offer "a more skilled work force to the industry."

"We use twice the amount of lumber in these houses, because they have to be moved," said Staebell. "These homes are three times as strong as a normal house. You couldn't blow them up."

Have an idea about a local person whose life would make a good profile or a neighborhood issue worth exploring? Write to: Louise Continelli, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240, or e-mail

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