With the planned Emerson Two hospitality high school in Buffalo well over a year behind schedule, it took a big leap Wednesday night as the lease for a site was approved by the school board.
With a lease approved with the joint effort of hotelier Mark Croce and McGuire Development, school leaders want to open the school in its permanent home in January of 2020. That means the first graduating class of the school will spend only one semester in the building.
The chosen site is a landmark former livery stable on West Huron Street, next door to Croce's Curtiss Hotel. The school has been operating from a temporary site in Triangle Academy in South Buffalo.
"The lease covers a period of 15 years, which we expect to commence sometime around December 31 of 2019, that will be the expected completion date of this project," said District General Counsel Nathaniel Kuzma. "The approximate cost of the lease over the term of 15 years is about $46 million in rent, of which 67-68 percent of that will be reimbursed."
That brought a blast from Board Member Sharon Belton-Cottman, who said she preferred a building the district would own -- something the State Education Department would probably block.
"To me, this is bittersweet, that we are not moving forward in this district to stop being renters and start being landlords," the Ferry District representative said. "That's what my concern is in regard to this."
The future site backs onto a parking lot that backs into the current Emerson High School on Chippewa Street.
School architects and planners say the new school will have the latest in cooking equipment and be set up for maximum flexibility. It is slated to have a different program than Emerson, leaning toward hospitality management rather than cooking and food service.
Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash said the district was looking to expand opportunities, instead of duplicating the program.
"And the downtown area where this site is proposed, not only is it great now, I see the Buffalo continuing to grow and I see opportunities just continuing to grow, for catering, for hotel," Cash said.