The Community Action Organization was all set to pursue its plans for an expanded Head Start day care operation and medical clinic on Riley Street.
Then it met the neighbors last Thursday at a community meeting.
"There was quite a bit of opposition to our plan, not the plan in general, but the location of the plan," said Jeffrey Hazel of Silvestri Architects, who is designing the project.
Working with McGuire Development Co., the nonprofit was planning to construct a 37,657-square-foot single-story facility at 563 Riley St. That's part of the 5.7-acre former Deaconess Hospital site on Humboldt Parkway, which the CAO acquired after Kaleida Health closed and demolished the 268,000-square-foot hospital complex five years ago.
The single-story building would include a big early childhood center, with 15 classrooms, two gross-motor rooms, a cafeteria and a large playground in a central courtyard. There would be 84 parking spaces in front and back, for ease of dropping of children.
CAO would relocate its True Bethel Head Start day care program at 909 E. Ferry St. – where its lease is expiring – and enlarge it by adding an Early Head Start program. The organization, which already runs 40 other Head Start facilities for 2,700 children in Erie and Niagara counties, would then be able to serve children from 6 weeks of age to 5 years in one site.
Meanwhile, a local health clinic would operate a 4,100-square-foot medical facility, with a family and pediatric practice to serve not only the Head Start children but also the surrounding neighborhood.
The plan needs a special-use permit from the Common Council, but in the meantime, officials found many people wanted them to pick a different location a block away, at 600 Northhampton St., which CAO also owns. So officials are now exploring that alternative.
"We are doing our due diligence to see what we can do on this other parcel," Hazel told the Planning Board Monday. The project would not be considered until September.