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Nardin pursues new athletic fields on Elmwood in third sports project

Attention, Elmwood Avenue: Expect even more Gator sightings in the near future.

Nardin Academy is working with Mod-Pac Corp. to construct new outdoor athletic fields in North Buffalo for the Catholic school's soccer, field hockey, lacrosse and softball teams.

According to an application to the city Planning Board, the plan would use 8.1 acres of vacant land that Mod-Pac is donating, east of Elmwood. Located at 1801 Elmwood, it's between the CSX Corp. rail line to the south – originally part of the old Belt Line Corridor – and Mod-Pac's building to the north.

The new project comes as the school is already embarking on construction of a two-story gymnasium and fitness facility expansion on its main campus at 135 Cleveland Ave., and after it received a $1 million gift – its largest ever – in November.

It also would be located next to a 30,000-square-foot indoor facility that Nardin opened in October 2016, at 1803 Elmwood, with an indoor soccer field and four squash courts.

"It’s been wild growth in that area," Nardin President Marsha Joy Sullivan said. "It's an amazing project."

The latest $6 million project would create two full-sized multipurpose turf fields, a small one-story building, three new on-site parking areas with a total of 117 spaces, six-foot fences, retaining walls, sidewalks, new landscaping and drainage, a road and field lighting.

The 1,500-square-foot building would include four locker rooms and restrooms, while the fields will feature fixed spectator seating for 225 people.

"Obviously, it’s very important for Nardin to be able to have these kinds of facilities," Sullivan said. "Academic excellence is what we are focused on always, and that whole student experience is more and more important all the time."

Additionally, the concept for the fields is to benefit the surrounding neighborhood in the Black Rock area, Sullivan said. While Nardin will own, manage and sponsor the facility as its home field, she said the school also plans to make it available at a low cost or no cost for use by local programs, such as Boys & Girls Clubs, community centers and churches.

"That's a poor neighborhood," she said. "There are about 20,000 school-aged kids that don't have anything like this. So really the way we have designed or modeled this whole position over there is to be able to have a shared-use model with that neighborhood."

Much of that use would come in the summer, when school is not in session. Nardin will also rent it out for use at other times, she said. "It'll be important to drive some income from it, because it's an expensive facility," she said. "We have never even imagined the opportunity to have anything like this, so when this came to us, it was clear that it was our opportunity, in a new neighborhood, to really get engaged in what is a community benefit program."

Both the space for the indoor facility and the land for the new athletic fields were donated at the same time by Mod-Pac, which is based in that neighborhood. Its CEO, Daniel Keane, has had his daughters attending Nardin.

"It’s another nice part of having a corporate relationship for a not-for-profit," Sullivan said. "They are a tremendous family and care very much for a community that has been good for them."

Sullivan said the addition of the fields next to the indoor facility were "part of the vision from the very beginning," but the school had to raise the additional funds and plan out the projects over time. Nardin hopes to complete and open the fields by April 2020, followed by the gymnasium and fitness facility by September 2020.

"The health and wellness center on Cleveland is absolutely a school facility," Sullivan said. "This project, coming almost at the same time, where it gives Nardin a chance to be an asset for the greater community, is even more exciting for us."

The site was originally part of the American Radiator Co. factory complex, which was constructed between 1891 and 1952 by the Pierce Steam Heating Co. and its successors, including American Radiator. So plans by C&S Cos. also include remediation of the contaminated property under the state Brownfield Cleanup Program to prepare for its new use. The property previously had four underground storage tanks. One was removed, while the other three were sealed. Mod-Pac will cover the costs of the cleanup as part of its donation.

"The project is a significant improvement for the entire neighborhood," attorney Marc Romanowski, representing Mod-Pac, wrote in a letter to the Planning Board. "The project involves the restoration and reuse of an existing underutilized industrial site."

The site was previously used by Mod-Pac for access to its larger property and for truck parking, and the project also will include improved access roads for the company. The property is zoned as light industrial, and Mod-Pac is seeking city designation of the project as a "planned-unit development" to facilitate multiple uses within the current zoning – including commercial and recreational.

The Planning Board this week recommended approval of the planned-unit development, sending the request to the Common Council, where the Legislation Committee held a public hearing on Tuesday and also backed the project. The application still requires site plan approval, as well as a green light from the Buffalo Sewer Authority. If approved, construction by Arc Building Partners is expected to take about six months.

In other action this week, the Buffalo Planning Board also:

  • Tabled a resubmitted $10 million adaptive reuse proposal by Larry Regan's Regan Development Corp. of Ardsley, N.Y., to convert the 100,000-square-foot former Monarch Knitting Co. building at 19 Doat St. into 74 affordable housing apartments, 5,700 square feet of community space and an 8,200-square-foot neighborhood medical clinic. Regan is partnering with Lt. Col. Matt Urban Human Services Center of Western New York to provide services to residents, while Jericho Road Community Health Center will run the clinic. The project was approved by the city in January 2018, but the approval had expired after one year.
  • Approved Ellicott Development Co.'s resubmitted project to renovate a vacant six-story building at 270 Michigan Ave., just south of Seneca St., into commercial space on the first three floors and six market-rate apartments on the upper three floors. The $7.25 million historic preservation project will include masonry repairs, window replacements, a new storefront entrance on the south side of the 25,254-square-foot building, and a one-floor parking deck at the west end of the 2.5-acre property to add 93 parking spaces. The plan was previously approved in late 2016, but was "put on hold" and had expired, according to a letter to the Planning Board from Ellicott Director of Development Tom Fox. Construction will take 12 months.

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