The following post have been updated with a rendering of the C.W. Miller Livery Stable proposal.
One and a half years and two Request for Proposals later, the Buffalo Public School District appears ready to select a site for a second Emerson School of Hospitality. The District’s administration has decided to build upon what is already successful by leasing the historic C.W. Miller Livery Stable at 73 W. Huron Street. The School Board heard an overview of the project last week but a few Boardmembers wanted additional information on the five proposals received. A special meeting is scheduled for June 7th where a vote is expected.
The existing Emerson School in the Root Building on Chippewa Street has a high attendance and graduation rate and will remain. The education provided at the school prepares students for a wide variety of hospitality and food service jobs or they may continue their education at a college or university.
Due to high student demand and what has been a successful program, the Buffalo School District expanded its culinary training with an Emerson School annex in the former School 28 at South Park Avenue and Abbott Road. The School 28 location was expected to be a short-term solution.
The Board of Education cancelled initial plans for the second Emerson School in the Trico complex last fall after citing a lack of progress by developer Krog Corp. A lawsuit over the cancelation is still pending. A second RFP was issued in December and five proposals were received:
• Mark Croce’s Buffalo Development Corporation/McGuire Development for reuse of the C.W. Miller Livery Stable downtown
• Uniland Development/Signature Development for a new-build at Ellicott and E. Tupper streets
• Krog Corp. in the Trico complex on the Medical Campus
• Larkin Development Group for a stand-alone school at Seneca and Smith streets in Larkinville
• Cedarland Development at the site of the former Buffalo Travel Lodge at 1159 Main Street
The RFP sought a “turn-key” 80,000-square-foot facility with 16 general classrooms, eight special-education classrooms, an art room, two resource rooms, two science labs, a library, a computer classroom, a cafeteria, a fitness area, various offices, and 100 parking spaces.
After a thorough analysis by school administrators, Dr. Kriner Cash recommended the Buffalo Development Corporation/McGuire proposal to create an urban campus for Emerson in the heart of downtown.
Croce, with extensive hospitality experience, is teaming up with McGuire Development, developer James F. Jerge, and Kideney Architects on the proposal. The historic building will be repurposed and a gymnasium built, cantilevered over a Croce-owned parking lot west of it.
“This is the premier site for the school,” says Croce. “We are right in the heart of the hospitality district.”
“The other proposals are on the periphery of downtown or outliers,” he adds. “This builds on what works.”
Croce lists the plusses of the site: adjacency to the existing successful school, access to public transportation, pedestrian traffic, reuse of an historic building that is on the National Register, on-site parking, shorter construction timeline, and proximity to many of downtown’s restaurants and most of its hotels including the Embassy Suites, Westin, Hyatt, Hampton Inn and Croce’s Curtiss Hotel that will welcome its first guests on June 30th.
Croce believes the location will help connect students to jobs. The expanded school is expected to broaden its academic offerings to include marketing and hospitality and sports management. “They can be employed right out of school,” he says.
Croce’s team calls it the “Four E’s”: Emerson, Education, Empowerment, Employment.
“There’s a definite need for hospitality industry workers right now,” says Croce. “It complements what I’m doing next door at the Curtiss and what I’ve done at my other downtown properties including Statler City and Buffalo Chop House which are both one block away.”
The District had hoped to have the new facility open in Fall 2018.
“We can start construction right away,” he says and adds it is Green Code-compliant and properly zoned. “The greenest building is a building that already exists.”
Any delay by the Board is concerning. The RFP did not include a Board role in reviewing the bids. Presentations by each of the bidders was not part of the evaluation criteria in this or the original RFP. The Buffalo Development Corporation/McGuire proposal was recommended unanimously by the administration but the Board has requested additional information.
“It was a well thought out recommendation,” says Croce. “I don’t know what other information they could want but we are happy to provide it. There is nothing wrong with asking questions.”
“We exceeded the criteria,” he adds. “Everyone had a fair shot. This will add to downtown’s revitalization and has been delayed for too long.”