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Developers to air plans for Emerson School project

A trio of developers will air their proposal before city planners on Monday to convert a historic West Huron Street building into the second home for the city's Emerson School of Hospitality.

McGuire Development Co., Mark Croce and James Jerge want to renovate the vacant C.W. Miller Livery building at 73-79 West Huron into a new high school. The project, which has been in the works for months, would create a six-level space for teaching Buffalo students about hotel, restaurant and catering fields, in addition to math, science, social studies and English.

The new urban school campus would be near the existing Emerson School and would be linked to Croce's Curtiss Hotel, which opened this summer at the corner of Franklin and West Huron. That would provide opportunities for collaboration and live training in an actual hospitality setting, while adding hotel management to Emerson's program offerings.

Plans for the $30 million project call for renovating the 90,000-square-foot former horse stable into an 80,000-square-foot culinary school for 500 students, with a public restaurant, a private dining room and banquet and special-event space. It would also include kitchens, a bakery, food preparation and serving space, freight service elevators and distribution space for supplies, as well as standard classrooms, lockers and a gymnasium. There would also be one or two residential apartments.

The first floor would house a tall lobby and concierge space facing West Huron, providing an upscale hotel-style entry for the school and the public restaurant. The rear side of the building at the north will be for deliveries and distribution space for food supplies, while the rest of the floor will have a teaching kitchen and culinary lab, preparation areas and support space.

An elevated gymnasium, supported by piers with staff parking underneath, would be constructed as an addition to the building.

The upper levels would house classrooms, an art room, science rooms, guidance and school nurse offices, as well as the assistant principal's office.

The sixth floor, with its exposed structural trusses and bracing, would house the cafeteria and library in sky-lit spaces, with computer and resource rooms between them. The developers plan to use suspended panels and glass partitions to highlight the space.

The project, designed by Kideney Architects, will be financed with state and federal historic tax credits and state brownfield tax credits, as well as a property tax break from the Erie County Industrial Development Agency. It's also up for a $750,000 low-interest loan from the Buffalo Building Re-Use Project fund, pending underwriting and final approval by the Buffalo Urban Development Corp.

If approved by the Planning Board, construction is expected to last about 18 months.

Emerson attracted more students and interest than its current facility can handle. That prompted the city school district to issue a request for proposals to create a second location that could accommodate the growth.

Krog Corp. initially won the rights to host the school as part of its Trico Products Corp. warehouse redevelopment near the medical campus. But repeated delays in the start of that project caused the school board to lose confidence and pull the plug in late 2016.

Rival developers then jumped into the fray, with some teaming up and making public pitches.

The Buffalo Public Schools board awarded the designated-developer status to McGuire, Croce and Jerge in July. But delay in choosing a developer could still mean the project won't be ready by the original target date of September 2018.

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