It's not exactly paving paradise, but Canisius College still wants to put up a parking lot.
Canisius wants to tear down the deteriorating three-story former Sears parking ramp adjacent to its Science Hall Building, so it can put up a more modern – and structurally safer – parking lot in its place on East Delavan Avenue.
The current 433,863-square-foot parking ramp – painted in the school's colors – was built in 1967, with more than 1,000 parking spaces, and acquired by Canisius in 2002. But it's in increasingly poor condition, according to the school's application to the Buffalo Planning Board. There also have been concerns among students about personal safety and crime.
"The level of deterioration has caught up with us and gotten to the point where it makes more sense to take the ramp down," said Tom Ciminelli, the school's director of facilities.
Past structural assessments found problems with the upper and middle levels, rendering the top level and many of the other spaces unusable. The third level was shut down in 2007 because it could no longer support cars, leaving 708 spaces. Then the remaining capacity was reduced further to 572 spaces by fall 2019.
"The parking ramp has reached the end of its useful life and must be replaced," the report said. "The college believes that a new and modern surface lot can replace the ramp."
The new surface lot would have 421 spaces, resulting in a net loss of about 80 spaces. But a 2017 study by Nussbaumer & Clarke found that the ramp's total capacity wasn't even needed, and the cost of maintenance and repairs "exceed the value of the spaces being used," according to the school's 2018 Facilities Master Plan.
On average, only 501 spaces were used in the ramp each day. But the campus also has 29 parking lots, and more than 450 spots aren't being used elsewhere. And the campus population - students and staff - fell by 683 from 2016 to 2020. Ciminelli said the school also plans to adjust shuttle service, relax campus parking rules, and offer more opportunity for administrative staff to work from home.
The new lot at 46 E. Delavan –- at the northwest corner with Jefferson Avenue – would feature new landscaping on the 3.65-acre site. The project includes removal of the steel-and-concrete structure and its foundation 2 feet below ground, as well as environmental cleanup.
"It’s not often that I’d rather see a surface lot, but I think this is going to be an improvement for the neighborhood overall," said Planning Board Vice Chair Cynthia Schwartz. "I think this’ll be a net plus. The quasi-derelict ramp is not a wonderful addition to the campus or the neighborhood."
The $4 million project requires a longer environmental review, so the Planning Board had to table the project until its next meeting in September. Canisius also needs approval from the Department of Public Works and the Buffalo Sewer Authority for the work, which would take eight months and be completed by May 2022.