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Growing children’s programs fuel Jewish Center expansion plans

The Jewish Community Center plans to expand and upgrade its Delaware Avenue building, allowing the center to increase the size of its early-childhood and after-school programs.

The plan also includes improvements to some fitness facilities, including construction of a new group fitness room and substantial improvements to create a state-of-the-art yoga and pilates studio.

JCC Executive Director Richard A. Zakalik discussed the preliminary plans Thursday during a meeting of the city Preservation Board, which must approve such things as style of building construction and types of window installation because the JCC is in the Linwood Avenue Preservation District.

Zakalik said the project is still in its early stages. The plan is expected to cost about $1 million to $1.5 million, but the actual cost and plans are partially dependent on an upcoming fundraising campaign to help pay for improvements. As a result, there also is no target date for the start and completion of construction, he said.

The plan calls for converting an outdoor patio at the rear of the JCC building into an indoor group fitness room, allowing JCC to convert space currently used for group fitness into five new early-childhood rooms, Zakalik said.

The JCC has about 180 children in its early-childhood program, serving infants through prekindergarten. Currently, there is a waiting list for all age groups, Zakalik said.

The proposed upgrades will allow the program to grow by about a third, he said.

Improvements also are planned for space in the lower level of the building that will allow the JCC’s after-school program, which currently has about 100 students, to grow to about 125, he said.

As part of the remodeling, JCC plans to create modified basketball and volleyball courts to be used by teenagers and preteens in the after-school program.

Also, there are plans to upgrade the center’s indoor playground, which is about 25 years old, Zakalik said.

The JCC executive director said the proposed expansion reflects increase demand for JCC programs, in part because of the nearby Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

Three years ago, Zakalik said, JCC doubled the size of its early-childhood program and the additional classes filled within three months.

With the planned improvements, JCC will have spent about $5 million on building upgrades in the past 10 years, he said.