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Buffalo's Joint Schools Construction Board has moved its nearly $1 billion schools construction and rehabilitation program a step closer to reality with official designation of the architectural firms for the effort's first phase.

Fourteen architects have been assigned one of 14 schools targeted for rehabilitation and modernization work in the $123 million first phase of the 10-year project. The timeline for the project, which will see about 64 buildings upgraded and six new schools built, calls for construction to start in the spring.

"This is a significant step for the future of the City of Buffalo and its schools," said Mayor Anthony M. Masiello.

Under terms of the contracts, each architectural firm is required to guarantee that 25 percent of the work is done by minority firms. Though this kind of requirement governing participation by minority- and women-owned businesses is common in the construction phase of public projects, it is not standard operating procedure for professional project services, such as architectural design and engineering.

"This is something I'm happy to see and will be keeping an eye on," said John E. Smith of the Coalition for Employment and Economic Development, a minority hiring advocacy group.

Ironically, the hiring requirement will force many of the 14 architectural teams to look beyond Buffalo for qualified women and minorities with which to partner. Dave MacLeod, a principal with Cannon Design, said that will be a challenge for the architectural team.

Under legislation approved by the State Legislature and signed by Gov. George E. Pataki in December 2000, the state will reimburse 94 percent of the cost to renovate existing schools, while up to six new schools can be built at an estimated 50 to 60 percent reimbursement rate.

The state also will allow the district to employ creative finance strategies to cover the local share, including construction of new buildings by private developers who would lease the schools to the district.

The architectural firms, the schools where they will work and a preliminary estimate of their fees:

Trautman Associates of Buffalo, Poplar Street Academy (School 11), $3.9 million.

Steiglitz Snyder Architecture of Blasdell, Native American Magnet (School 19), $7.1 million.

Sear Brown Group of Buffalo, Early Childhood Center (School 31), $4.2 million.

Robert Traynham Coles Architect of Buffalo, Sedita Academy, $5.9 million.

Wendel Duchscherer Architects & Engineers of Amherst, Riverside Academy, $7 million.

DiDonato Associates of West Seneca, North Park Academy, $6.1 million.

Hamilton Houston Lownie Architects of Buffalo, Red Jacket Academy (P.S. 67), $4.9 million.

Habiterra Associates of Jamestown, Indian Park Academy, $3.9 million.

E.I. Team of Town of Tonawanda, Hamlin Park, $5.5 million.

George Lukasziewicz Architect of Amherst, School 75 (currently used as administrative offices), $5.3 million.

Flynn Battaglia Architects of Buffalo, Highgate Heights Elementary (School 80), $5.3 million.

Architectural Resources of Buffalo, Buffalo Alternative High School, $3.7 million.

Cannon Design of Grand Island, Emerson Vocational High School, $7.1 million.

Kideney Architects of Amherst, Buffalo Vocational Technical Center, $11.7 million.


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