Construction of the proposed new Explore & More Children's Museum at Canalside will officially kick off Wednesday when museum and state officials break ground at the new site in downtown Buffalo.
The groundbreaking will take place at 10 a.m. near the intersection of Marine Drive and Lloyd Street, where the planned new four-story building will be located. Expected to open in late 2018, it will feature seven educational play zones designed to tell the story of Buffalo with hands-on exhibits and experiences.
The $27 million project at 130 Main, led by LeChase Construction of Rochester, calls for a 43,000-square-foot building made of brick, limestone, metal, granite and glass, with the Lake Street bridge bringing school children directly inside the building. Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. is investing $9 million, while New York Power Authority is providing $1.75 million.
Officials project the museum, currently located in East Aurora, will see over 250,000 visitors each year once the new location opens. The building will be designed to look like it was originally constructed a century ago and then renovated over time.
The city's waterfront development agency in February approved the final design for the museum, clearing the way for construction to begin this week.
"I am excited about this major, major milestone," said Sam Hoyt, an Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. board member. "I think the design reflects what we have expressed as a priority, and that it be consistent in terms of the architecture that originally stood in its place."
The first level of the four-story museum, designed by Orchard Park-based Fontanese, Folts, Aurbrecht & Ernst, will have a retail space, as well as a cafe on a lower level along the towpath.
Plans call for a two-story atrium space on the second floor to host a water exhibit, while the third floor provides space for several other exhibits and views of the Buffalo River. The top floor will have a rooftop terrace and "crow's nest" to offer a view of the city and the Buffalo River, as well as windows for the entire length of the building along the canal side.
Architects designed the structure as two separate but connected mercantile buildings – one from the past and one modern – and used historic images of other nearby commercial buildings on the waterfront to effectively create a story behind it, as if it had been constructed and modified over time.
So the masonry facade includes window spaces blocked up by bricks, in a way that would reflect how the building's use could have changed through its history. Meanwhile, metal panels would show where the building was presumably modified and updated in later years.
"We're not seeking a facsimile of what was done before, but to be respectful," architect Phil DiNicola of FFAE told the Planning Board back in February. "We thought we would design it so that it is sympathetic toward the past."
At the same time, he said, the design was constrained by the West Canal, Lloyd Street, Lake Street and the Skyway, which will be only 15 feet from the building. The bridge was incorporated into the building's design to allow for easy movement of people not only to and from the museum but also to nearby activities.
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