Leaders of Nardin Academy have a good idea. The project they envision would provide new opportunities to the school’s students and, while it would require variances from the Buffalo Green Code, the changes would have little effect on the community. It deserves to be approved.
The iconic private institution is seeking to construct a 20,700-square-foot addition to the school building at 135 Cleveland Ave. The requested variances will enhance the school and its amenities while maintaining the fabric of the neighborhood and even making on-street parking easier.
The Zoning Board of Appeals approved the request on Wednesday. The Planning Board should follow suit.
Nardin school officials intend to add a two-story gymnasium and fitness facility. The goal is to produce a full-size gymnasium, a fitness center, a wellness center, two locker rooms, athletic offices, concessions and a bookstore. The gym would be spacious with 11 rows of bleachers that would seat 482.
The project would enhance the exterior through new landscaping to screen the expansion, in addition to a courtyard in the new plaza for better pedestrian access. Schneider Architectural Services is handling the design.
The project would provide an additional 15 parking spaces after the existing lot is reconfigured. Bicycle racks would be added near the entrance and in the new courtyard. Moreover, there are plans to enhance the experience of students, including a new elementary school playground, new outdoor sports court and other courtyard improvements.
For all of this, Nardin officials have requested a little leeway on the Green Code regarding the height of the addition, at 46 feet and 7.25 inches. The maximum allowable under the code is 40 feet.
School officials say the height variance is needed so the gym will meet standard regulations for size and to allow for an ambulance to circulate through the parking lot below, at the ground floor level.
The school also wants relief from the landscaping requirement. With that, they say will be able to provide more parking on the site and reduce the need to take up parking on the street. The plan also provides for better visibility and pedestrian safety, school officials say.
Builders have made several requests for variances from the Green Code which is still relatively new and which, in general, serves the city well. At times, the interests of developers or owners of buildings run counter to those of preservationists and others concerned about overbuilding. Their concerns need to be given due consideration.
The issues involved can be divisive, but each request should be considered on its own merits. This decision should be easy.
The variances sought for the Nardin project are relatively small and could produce benefits for the school’s students and the community. The Zoning Board of Appeals made the right call.