Two rival developers who teamed up to bid on the right to build a second hospitality high school say they will proceed independently on their downtown properties if Buffalo Public Schools turns down their proposal.
Uniland Development Co. and Rocco Termini's Signature Development Buffalo LLC won approval from the city Planning Board this week to construct a complex near Ellicott and Tupper streets that would include a public high school focused on hospitality, office space and a parking ramp.
The Planning Board's approval, however, may be premature. The team is one of five proposals under consideration by Buffalo Public Schools to build a second school modeled after its Emerson School of Hospitality program. School officials have not yet announced a decision.
Planning Board members queried Termini's architect, Jonathan Morris of Carmina Wood Morris PC, and Uniland architect Kevin Kirk about whether the project would go forward if the school isn't included. The answers were vague.
"I know Signature has some other ideas for its portion of the property," Morris said.
Kirk told board members he could not give them a definite answer.
"I can tell you that there are discussions," Kirk said. "This was a unique opportunity for both partners. There's an opportunity to still do that."
The developers have proposed a $70 million project would be located at the north end of the block bordered by Ellicott, Oak and Tupper streets. The site includes both a Uniland-owned property at 505 and 525 Ellicott, where a warehouse formerly belonging to Frey the Wheelman now stands, as well as adjacent land that Signature owns at 400 N. Oak St.
Uniland spokeswoman Jill Pawlik confirmed on Wednesday that "we would still pursue developing it in some form due to the demand for space in that area."
It would likely be a different project. Kirk said Uniland does "have a tenant that we're working with for the office building." He would not elaborate.
Termini called the site "the perfect location for any type of office building," noting that it's "at the southern terminus of the medical campus."
"We'd certainly have to find a tenant but it wouldn't eliminate our desire to develop the site," Termini said. "It's just going to take us a little longer."
Plans call for a four-story school building at 505 Ellicott, with a one-story corner section, totaling 76,500 square feet. It would include classrooms, kitchens, a bakery, offices, a banquet facility and a public restaurant, which would be accessed from Ellicott Street.
There would also be a six-story brick and aluminum panel office building at the corner of Ellicott and East Tupper – which Uniland would construct and manage – as well as a precast concrete-and-brick parking ramp with 380 spaces on four levels along Oak. The ramp would be connected to both the school and the office building.
Overall, the U-shaped project would leave the Ellicott Small Animal Hospital tucked in the middle, surrounded on three sides by the new construction. Kirk said the developers would work with the veterinary practice to ensure it would not be affected.
The developers also received a setback variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals on Wednesday.