The compromise master plan agreed to by Erie County Executive Joel Giambra and the trustees of Erie Community College is not the sweeping reinvention of the college that Giambra had envisioned, but the changes to ECC's previous plan are sufficient to make it one worth pursuing. If it's not perfect, it's perfectly acceptable.
The plan maintains the college's three campuses, which is what Giambra hoped to change, by consolidating ECC in downtown Buffalo. But in a change from the plan ECC announced several weeks ago, more students would be moved to the City Campus and, even more important, the ice rink and dormitory that were to be built at the South Campus are now to be constructed in Buffalo.
That is an important change for a couple of reasons. It puts those facilities where more people can use them. In particular, the dormitory -- which didn't make much sense in Orchard Park -- can be shared by students from other city colleges. That change also avoids significant new construction at the South Campus, leaving open the possibility for further consolidations.
Perhaps the most intriguing part of this vision is the development of a "communiversity," which was included in ECC's original plan. The idea is to link the city's two- and four-year schools with new construction that several partners support. Those kind of partnerships could occur at both the downtown and North campuses.
The plan also does away with an on-again, off-again proposal to build a fourth ECC campus, on I-990. This page favored the advantages of a college that would eventually be merged into a single, downtown campus. The idea of expanding rather than consolidating would have required a justification that simply doesn't exist in an economically stressed and shrinking region.
Work has already begun on the expanded City Campus, with the ongoing construction of a $33 million building for the college's public safety program. The second phase of that project is to begin next summer.
That's a good start on a plan that is not as far-reaching as Giambra had hoped, or that we would have preferred, but which nonetheless represents a solid foundation on which to build the college's future. Both sides did well in overcoming the bitterness that had been injected into this debate and coming up with a useful compromise.