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District might pick developer for second Emerson high school

The newest project headed for the downtown area isn't office space, retail or apartments.

It's a high school.

Buffalo Public Schools will publicly air proposals for a second Emerson School of Hospitality during a special meeting on Wednesday.

The success of Emerson on West Chippewa Street - known publicly for its popular student-run restaurant - prompted the school district in 2015 to open a second location at an old elementary school in South Buffalo until a new building is constructed.

Five proposals for the new high school were submitted in February by some of Buffalo's heavy-hitters: Uniland Development Co. and Rocco Termini's Signature Development; McGuire Development Co. and Buffalo Development Corp., headed by businessman Mark D. Croce; Howard and Leslie Zemsky's Larkin Development Group; Krog Corp.; and Cedarland Development Group.

Picking a developer for the new school has taken longer than planned and there's a possibility the board could choose one Wednesday, although no vote is scheduled right now, said Barbara A. Seals Nevergold, School Board president.

"We don't have another formal board meeting until June 20 and we'd like not to prolong it to that date if possible," Nevergold said. "At this point in time, our goal is to look at the recommendations of staff and have a thorough review and discussion."

The district - which would lease space in the new building - has not released details, but four of the five developers have previously discussed their proposals for Emerson II with The Buffalo News.

They include:

505 Ellicott St.: Uniland and Termini have teamed up to propose a four-story building at the north end of the block bordered by Ellicott, Oak and Tupper streets. The site includes Uniland-owned property at 505 and 525 Ellicott, as well as adjacent land Termini owns at 400 N. Oak St.

The school would be part of a larger $70 million project that would add a new office building and parking ramp near the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

75 West Huron St.: McGuire Development and Croce also joined forces to propose converting the historic Hertz building into a second school of hospitality.

The site would create a "campus-like" atmosphere by being just a short distance from the current Emerson at 70 West Chippewa St. in what the developers referred to as the "Hospitality Corridor."

Besides classrooms, kitchens, a bakery and a restaurant, the new school would include a gymnasium for both Emersons to share.

875 Seneca St.: Larkin Development – which owns the building on Chippewa where Emerson is a tenant – has proposed a custom-built, 75,000-square-foot school on a shovel-ready site at Seneca, Exchange and Smith streets.

The initial concept for an Emerson II started with Larkinville, which is an attractive area for the school district because of the neighborhood's growth and potential for walk-in traffic for another restaurant. There's also no high school between downtown and South Park High School.

817 Washington St.: Krog Corp. resubmitted its proposal to build a second Emerson in the former Trico building on the edge of the Medical Campus.

The school district originally designated Trico as its preferred location for Emerson, but the Board of Education walked away late last year after delays caused school officials to lose confidence that the building would be ready by its September 2018 target date.

Cedarland has been identified as the fifth developer to submit a proposal for Emerson II, but has not publicly shared details.

The second Emerson currently is housed at an old school building at South Park Avenue and Abbott Road and was christened Emerson Annex@28 when it opened in the fall of 2015. The building - which was retrofitted to add some kitchen space -  currently has freshman and sophomore classes for an enrollment of about 250 students, Nevergold said.

The district is still eyeing 2018 as a target date for the new building, which is when the school's first freshman class becomes seniors.

"We're about a year late, quite frankly," Nevergold said. "I believe we really have to be expeditious because it seriously does impact our students."


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