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Emerson would be a good fit at Trico, but school needs to open as scheduled

The idea of locating a second Emerson School of Hospitality in the long-vacant Trico building is intriguing. At the very least it will jump-start efforts to breathe new life into that enormous structure while integrating an exciting and popular high school curriculum into the burgeoning Medical Campus.

Sitting on the edge of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus at 817 Washington St., the historic windshield wiper factory is a 617,000-square-foot complex of five buildings built in stages from 1890 to 1954. Krog Corp. of Orchard Park was named designated developer of the building in December 2013, and has said not all of the space would be utilized.

The company has proposed a 138-room extended-stay hotel, run by Hart Hotels, along with apartments and commercial and retail space. Krog has been having trouble getting the project underway. It is now on its fifth extension – until June 1 – of the deadline for purchasing the structure.

Because of that history, the Buffalo School Board put a condition on its designation of Krog as developer of the Emerson school: Krog must make substantial progress on the project in the next five months so the school is on track to open in September 2017.

Certainly being able to have the school district as one of the tenants would help get the project off the ground. The Emerson program would benefit by proximity to the Medical Campus that is supposed to grow to nearly 17,000 employees, from the current 12,000. The John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital, University at Buffalo Medical School and Roswell Park Cancer Institute’s Clinical Science Center are all scheduled for completion by 2017. By then, according to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus website, there will be more than 1.5 million patients and visitors annually.

The school is poised for success wherever it is located, but it’s important to get it open on schedule for the start of classes in 2017.

If Trico doesn’t work out, the district is wisely keeping its options open with its second and third choices, a site downtown and one in Larkinville, as possibilities.

Emerson, at 70 W. Chippewa St., has been a huge success and one that the district has wanted to replicate. The program is proof positive of what can be accomplished in a struggling school district. Students are clamoring to get into the program, where they receive training in skills that transfer to available jobs. Even those who choose other fields benefit from the education.

Trico seems to be an excellent location, with the Medical Campus’ foot traffic, access to public transit and proximity to downtown, the Fruit Belt and Allentown, but Krog has to prove it can move forward with the project.