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Brick exterior of Explore & More creates 'sense of place' at Canalside

The facade is taking shape at Explore & More - The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Children's Museum.

Since the start of July, bricks have been put on two sides of the building, giving a sense of how the museum will look at its expected spring 2019 opening at Canalside.

"I think when you see the brick sides, you get a real sense what the building will mean to the canal," said Steven Ranalli, waterfront development vice president for Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp.

"Even though it's only three and four stories tall, the building puts a sense of place on the canal. It sure changes the look and feel."

Rather than being applied one by one, the slightly thinner-than-normal bricks are snapped into a wall system. Mortar will be added next, adding to the finished look.

The brickwork could be completed for the entire building by the end of August, Ranalli said, depending in part on the results of water testing.

Besides the brick, mechanical systems remain to be installed and tested and minor site work has to be completed. That includes putting back the towpath and adding stairs, a ramp system and railings for the Lloyd Street entrance, and paving for the drop-off area.

A secondary entrance from the Canal Street Bridge will be used for school and other large groups.

LeChase Construction will turn the museum over to Explore & More by early fall to begin the build-out of the interior of the new museum. That work will be done by Savarino Companies, with Foit-Albert Associates as the interior architect.

Ranalli said the museum, along with a building coming to the corner of Washington and Scott streets by Benderson Development, and another development expected to be announced in early August on Marine Drive, near the canal, will reshape that portion of Canalside.

"It will completely transform the experience down there," Ranalli said.

The dug-out portion where part of Memorial Auditorium once stood north of the canal, which has been criticized for looking like a messy storage area, has been cleaned up by Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp.

The grassy area has been graded and reseeded, with maintenance equipment used on a daily or weekly basis consolidated into a half-dozen storage units, lined side by side.

Equipment used less frequently was moved off site, Ranalli said.

Meanwhile, Explore & More continues to draw closer to its $20 million fundraising target, separate from the $9 million provided by the waterfront agency to construct the building's core and shell.

Explore & More has raised $2.4 million of the $6 million needed to take advantage of the $6 million matching grant from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation. Reaching that amount will allow Explore & More to realize its capital campaign goal.

Michelle Urbanczyk, Explore & More's CEO, hopes to reach that goal by the end of October.

"We are so excited about the new museum," Urbanczyk said. "The bricks and siding are going up, and the building is looking amazing as this community vision comes to life at Canalside.

"It's going to be an incredibly fun and immersive experience for children and adults alike."

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