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Planning Board approves Canisius Science Hall

Canisius College is expected to begin work next month on the first phase of a $68 million Science Hall after the city's Planning Board gave its approval Tuesday.

The board unanimously endorsed a project that will turn a former Sears department store at Main Street and Jefferson Avenue into a state-of-the-art science center. The four-story building was most recently occupied by HealthNow. The insurance provider left the premises about four years ago when it moved into a new downtown headquarters.

The first phase will include renovations to 120,000 square feet of space on the first two floors. William Greeley, associate vice president of Cannon Design, estimated the cost of the project's initial phase will range from $16 million to $24 million. The college hopes to start using the building by fall 2012.

Currently, Canisius' science programs are located in three buildings that are scattered across campus, Greeley said.

"They are looking to bring all the sciences together under one roof," he told the Planning Board.

The renovated structure will also house the college's information technology unit and the mailroom.

There won't be too much work performed on the building's exterior, Greeley said.

However, one major change will involve reopening a plaza off Jefferson that will allow people easy access between the campus and the Science Hall.

Blueprints also call for the construction of a metal and glass canopy. Glass is an important element in the overall design, said Greeley, because architects want to bring as much natural light as possible into the large structure.

The plan calls for a new chilling plant and 30-foot cooling tower, features that are needed to accommodate an advanced ventilation system.

"The issue with a science building like that is there's a heavy demand on air changes, especially in the labs," Greeley explained.

The Planning Board is requiring Canisius to make only one revision. It wants some planned dumpsters to be relocated so that they are not as visible from Jefferson.

Canisius already has secured more than $25 million for the project, college President John J. Hurley told The Buffalo News last week. The sum includes $16 million in financing through M&T Bank and the Buffalo and Erie County Industrial Land Development Corp. Funding also includes $7 million from the state, a $2 million grant from the John R. Oishei Foundation and a $400,000 federal grant.

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com

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