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Canisius High School planning $14 million upgrade New academic wing, fieldhouse top the planned projects

Canisius High School is planning a $14 million upgrade of its Delaware Avenue campus that includes a new fieldhouse and academic wing.

A new three-story, 26,000-square-foot math and science wing will be constructed on the West Ferry Street side of the building on what is currently a grass practice field.

The 27,000-square-foot fieldhouse will be located on the Cleveland Avenue side of the property, where Frauenheim Hall, a former Jesuit residence, now stands.

"This project will enhance our ability to educate our students, and the new structures will blend in with the neighborhood and the exquisite architecture of our campus," said the Rev. James P. Higgins, Canisius president.

Located at 1180 Delaware Ave., south of Gates Circle, the school is housed in a circa-1924 mansion built as a home for Marine Midland Bank founder George F. Rand. The stone structure later served as the Buffalo Consistory of the Masons. This would be the biggest construction project since the school moved from a downtown location to the Delaware Avenue site in 1944.

Pending city approvals for the campus overhaul, the all-male Catholic prep school plans to start construction by next summer, with a completion target of fall 2009. Uniland Development Co. of Amherst is partnering with Canisius on the project, with Buffalo's Hamilton Houston Lownie Architects in charge of its design.

Architect Gerald Strickland said the design is meant to reflect the 130-year-old school's traditions and its place in the community.

"[The fieldhouse and academic wing] respond to the neighboring context, from Cleveland, Delaware and West Ferry," Strickland said.

The school and its construction team have met with several groups of neighbors in recent weeks to give them a preliminary glimpse of the project. Parent and alumni groups also have received updates on the campus redevelopment plan.

"Canisius is finalizing funding plans for this capital project and is considering several alternatives," Higgins said.

Highlights of the math-science wing include state-of-the-art classrooms and labs to accommodate technological needs. A new cafeteria will be located on the basement level of that structure.

The fieldhouse will house a full-sized basketball arena, which can be split into three practice courts, decreasing the need to schedule early-morning and late-night practices.

The two-pronged construction project also will provide improved access to the school's two parking lots for buses and cars, while eliminating lot exits onto Cleveland Avenue.

"This will end a long-standing bottleneck on Cleveland and make things easier for those residents," Higgins said.

Frauenheim Hall, built in 1956 and used as a Jesuit residence for more than 40 years, will be torn down to make room for a new sports complex. It has been sitting idle for several years, with intermittent office use, as the high school has contemplated its future physical needs.

The project will get its first official public airing before the city Planning Board on Tuesday.

Unveiling of the $14 million project comes as Canisius begins a $500,000 project to convert a mansion-turned-day care center across the street from its campus at 1193 Delaware Ave. into administrative offices, with additional parking.

The school also is attempting to sell a donated mansion-turned-luxury offices, located at 891 Delaware Ave. Michael DeRose, of DeRose Food Brokers, gave his company's former headquarters to the school last year, and it is currently on the market with an asking price of $3.3 million.

Canisius also is deciding the fate of two Cleveland Avenue residences it purchased in 2005 as part of its effort to aid its land-locked campus. And it is now utilizing a portion of a 65-acre site it bought on Clinton Street in West Seneca in 2005 to develop athletic facilities.


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