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New Seneca Babcock community center planned for former school site

A neighborhood group near South Buffalo is hoping to transform a vacant former public school property into a new community center with a gymnasium, computer classrooms and quiet study rooms for students to do their homework.

The Seneca Babcock Community Association is working with Ciminelli Real Estate Corp. on a proposal to construct a new 12,593-square-foot "civic" building at 82 Harrison St. Bounded by Harrison and Milton streets, near Seneca Street, that's the site of the now-demolished former School 26, which was already remediated.

The new Seneca Babcock Community Center would feature the planned 7,644-square-foot gym, along with related sports equipment, bleachers, restrooms, locker rooms, storage rooms, an office and bicycle parking. The building would also include two 250-square-foot "classrooms for learning computer skills and for quiet homework time in a safe environment," according to a statement of intent filed with a site plan application to the city.

The 1.94-acre site, which is currently owned by the city, also would include 19 parking spaces and landscaping, and the planned location would allow for both building and parking lot expansion "when further project funding is attained," the statement said. The $2.5 million plan also incorporates funding for future improvements to the adjacent Mullen Park.

"The project will be a great asset to the community, and the project team is proud to work with the City of Buffalo on this deal," the statement continued.

The project requires approval from the Buffalo Planning Board, which will hold a public hearing and consider the proposal on March 12. A special-use permit is also needed from the Common Council, as the property is zoned for residential.

Ciminelli has been providing development services and coordinating the project on a pro-bono basis for the last few years, but its involvement stops after Planning Board approval, spokeswoman Anne Duggan said.

Officials are also working with Kideney Architects, C&S Engineers, Wendel Companies and Premier Contracting on the project, which features a brick facade, insulated metal panels and a glass-and-aluminum storefront entry with a metal-panel canopy overhead. If approved, officials hope to start work in the spring, with completion after eight months.

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