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Tapestry Charter School clears final hurdle for unified campus

Buffalo's Tapestry Charter School has built a solid academic reputation despite a series of physical limitations.

Students are split between two rented sites, elementary school students walk down the street to use a Salvation Army gymnasium, and parking spaces are scarce.

Now -- after several years of stops and starts -- the school is about to construct its own campus at a Great Arrow Drive building that used to house a bowling alley, a supermarket and then a call center.

The final piece in the puzzle fell into place this week when the Erie County Industrial Development Agency approved a $244,570 sales and mortgage recording tax abatement for the project.

It will include a $6.4 million renovation of an existing 46,000-square-foot building and the construction of a gym. After that, Tapestry will build an adjacent two-story classroom building for about $4 million, said Joy S. Pepper, the school's executive director.

High school students are expected to move from their current quarters at former Buffalo School 36 sometime this school year. Tapestry's elementary school will move in the fall of 2011 from the North Street facility that it has occupied since opening in 2001.

"We've been teaching in boxes and certainly have done a good job of it," Pepper said. "But it will be great to have our own space. It makes the program more stable."

Tapestry will seek permission from the state to expand enrollment to 770 from its current level of 510 students, Pepper said. More than 500 students are on the school's waiting list.

Tapestry reached an agreement to purchase the Great Arrow property -- off Delaware Avenue in North Buffalo -- in 2007, but its construction plans were stalled by a dispute in Albany over a law governing low-interest loans by industrial finance agencies.

Instead, Tapestry reached a leasing agreement with 1238 Group, a division of Ellicott Development, which will convert the property into a school campus, Pepper said.

e-mail: psimon@buffnews.com

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