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Recirculating stream, pond now part of Park School science building project

The Park School of Buffalo delayed the start of construction on its new science center because administrators needed to change the location of the building and to raise more money.

But the private institution in Amherst now hopes to begin work on the $3.1 million building this summer. And school officials say the project includes a recently added feature – a recirculating stream that would connect to a pond on the property – that makes the wait worthwhile.

"The pond that we have on our campus, it's struggling in terms of viability. So this will let us rehabilitate the pond," said Christopher J. Lauricella, the head of school. "That was never in our original scope of work. That's tacked on, so to speak."

The Park School this week filed a site plan application with the Amherst Planning Department for a 10,800-square-foot science building, which would be built at the school's 33-acre campus at 4625 Harlem Road between Main Street and Sheridan Drive.

Christopher Lauricella, head of school at The Park School of Buffalo, stands Thursday , April 20, 2017 on the site where the school's new science building will be built. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

The school, which has 300 students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, initially revealed its plans for the science building in October 2015. The Park School said it would raise $4 million for the Knopp-Hailpern Science Center, named in honor of the late Jacky Knopp and Raoul Hailpern, who were math teachers at the school.

The Park School held a ceremonial groundbreaking last June, and said at the time it had raised the $3.1 million needed for the building itself. The rest of the $4 million was committed to infrastructure and technology improvements, Lauricella said, and the school has just about met that goal as well.

But the school never began work at the site. He said a geological survey conducted at the proposed construction site discovered underlying bedrock that would have made it prohibitively expensive to locate the building there.

The original site was next to Hamlin Hall on the school's campus. Officials decided, after consulting last fall with board members and others involved in the construction process, to shift the building about 80 feet north, closer to the pond and down a hill, Lauricella said.

At the same time, school officials also started to look into the possibility of adding into the project a man-made stream that would connect from the building to the pond.

The pond, which is 10-feet deep at its deepest and boasts fish and turtles, is the lowest point in the area and absorbs fertilizer used by the school's neighbors, Lauricella said. A series of pumps would bring water out of the pond and gravity would return the water to the pond, serving educational and environmental missions, Lauricella said.

The school is quietly raising additional money for the stream and other, unexpected costs – such as building an entrance plaza in the larger space that will now exist between the science center and Hamlin Hall – but doesn't anticipate having to go public with a fundraising campaign. Lauricella said he doesn't have a precise estimate for the additional costs.

The town Planning Board must approve the site plan application and could review the proposal at its May 18 meeting. If that approval comes, the school could begin construction in June and work would take nine months to one year, Lauricella said. R+P Oak Hill Building Company is the general contractor.

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