The old C.W. Miller Livery Building is being recommended by Buffalo school officials as the site for a second Emerson School of Hospitality.
The building at 73 W. Huron St. is right around the corner from the existing Emerson on West Chippewa Street – the backs of the two buildings abut each other – and together the two high schools would create an expanded "hospitality campus" for the school district along the same downtown block.
Buffalo School Board members, however, were uncomfortable accepting the recommendation Wednesday along with naming the team of McGuire Development Co. and Mark D. Croce as the preferred developer for the project.
Board members wanted more details from district officials on why this one was selected over the four other proposals submitted – one in the Larkinville neighborhood and three closer to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
The other sites are 1159 Main St., near Dodge Street, proposed by Cedarland Development; the former Trico building at 791 Washington St., proposed by Krog Corp.; 889 Seneca St., proposed by Larkin Development Group; and 505 Ellicott St., proposed by the team of Uniland Development Co. and developer Rocco Termini.
"My vote is that I'd like to see more information," said Central District Board Member Paulette Woods. "I'd like to understand it so I can make a fair, intelligent decision on your recommendation so I can explain it to my constituents."
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 were narrowed to three and then two, before school officials decided the concept of a "hospitality campus" concept was the direction the district should go.
The idea is not to replicate or compete with Emerson, but complement and expand it by not only offering culinary and bakery but two new programs: hospitality and hotel management, as well as sports events management.
"We view the development of a hospitality campus ... as the best option for the students of Buffalo," said James Weimer, an associate superintendent for school leadership in the district.
The six-story former horse stable on Huron Street would be renovated as a school with 80,212 square feet that would be leased by the district for a cost of roughly $22 million over 15 years. The district would receive about 70 percent building aid from the state.
Besides classrooms, kitchens and a bakery, Emerson II would include a gymnasium for both Emersons to share, which was appealing to the district. The new Curtiss Hotel is right next door.
Board members debated the issue during a two-hour meeting Wednesday evening.
North District Board Member Hope Jay suggested school officials bring back a list of pros and cons for each of the proposals so the board better understands why this project was recommended.
"We want the opportunity to be led through the process of how you arrived at the decision," Jay said.
Board members Larry Quinn and Patricia Pierce were not in attendance at the session. Park District Board Member Carl Paladino showed up briefly, but left.
The board is expected to take up the issue again on June 7.
Superintendent Kriner Cash wanted the board to accept the recommendation so the district could start moving ahead with the development process.
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.
The school district is still shooting for the second Emerson building – wherever it ends up being – to be ready by the 2018-19 school year.