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ECC details $119 million building plan for campuses

Erie Community College plans $119 million in new construction and building renovations over the next five years under a proposed master plan for its three campuses.

The bulk of the construction -- about $95 million -- would take place on the City Campus, including a new academic building and parking for 1,600 cars.

However, the college's draft master plan also calls for $24 million in construction on the North and South campuses, signaling the school's commitment to stay in the suburbs.

"We do have to have a master plan for our institution that we believe will move it forward," ECC President William J. Mariani said. He spoke at a special meeting of the ECC board of trustees Wednesday, at which officials discussed the draft master plan prepared by BHNT Architects. Trustees expect to approve the draft later this month.

ECC hasn't yet won the support of top Erie County officials for the plan. And it is not clear how or if the college will obtain the financing for the project at a time when the county is struggling financially.

"I look forward to reviewing the plan, and that dollar figure doesn't intimidate me," Erie County Executive Joel A. Giambra said after the meeting, which he did not attend.

College officials previously revealed general construction plans. But the draft proposal unveiled Wednesday includes for the first time the anticipated price tag and other specifics.

The biggest piece of the $95 million in construction proposed for the City Campus is a $60 million, 299,000-square-foot academic building planned for the parcel north of the Burt Flickinger Athletic Center and west of the new Erie County Public Safety Center.

Another big part of the downtown construction, a parking ramp, or ramps, with spaces for 1,600 cars, would cost $24 million. But those buildings could be shared with retailers, a Metro Bus terminal and other users, lowering the cost to the college.

The City Campus needs to expand because the college plans to move most of its administrative staff and programs that serve thousands of students -- such as allied health -- downtown from the suburbs.

The draft master plan also calls for constructing an $8.7 million, 53,000-square-foot classroom building on the North Campus and a $9.4 million, 56,700-square-foot building for the vehicle technology training center on the South Campus.

The total cost includes $3 million at each campus for required safety and code-compliance construction.

Giambra, who said he hasn't seen the draft, said he is reluctant to support new construction on the suburban campuses.

But he said he is open to discussing the plan with college officials. He said the county still has capacity to borrow money for capital projects.

Legislature Majority Leader Lynne M. Marinelli, D-Town of Tonawanda, however, said the county may not be able to afford its share of the project.

e-mail: swatson@buffnews.com

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