It's a project that evolved since its conception and faced its share of criticism along the way. But on Friday morning, the Town of West Seneca's new community center and library were celebrated in a formal opening ceremony.
The library, which features enclosed study rooms, a large children's section and a "maker space" for hands-on group activities, first opened June 25. The community center section is now full available. A cafe operated by Spot Coffee is expected to open by September.
"It's a beautiful facility and it feeds, I believe, every appetite," said West Seneca Town Supervisor Sheila Meegan. "We had a couple add-ons, if you will during the course (of development). We had a storm, that we lost the recreation building. At the end of the day, this is everything and more."
The construction met controversy and some community backlash along the way. Some expressed concerns over the re-zoning of land into commercial space. Others complained the project would lower property values.
Meegan says some of the naysayers have since used the building and she believes others will soon come to appreciate the center.
Among those present to celebrate the opening was Erie County Clerk Michael Kearns, who represented West Seneca as part of the 142nd District until his election to his current position. He, too, acknowledged the challenges faced during the funding and construction of the library and community center but told those in attendance not to be bashful about their new building.
"This is a generational building," he said. "A Frank Lloyd Wright-esque type building that, when you drive by, you will take a second look."
The man now representing the 142nd Assembly District, Erik Bohen, spoke more briefly than Kearns but earned applause when announcing he has secured an additional $5,000 for the center.
"I couple of weeks ago, I came into this building and was blown away," Boehn said. "It is absolutely gorgeous. The children once again, in the Town of West Seneca, have won another victory."
The $13.5 million dollar project includes funding which, Meegan suggested, lowered the town's commitment to approximately $10 million. She said that will break down to about $15 to $25 per household, depending on the assessed value of one's property.
Her hope is for the expanded complex to serve as a model for other local municipalities to follow.
"We're one of the first mixed-use facilities in the State of New York," Meegan said. "I'd like to say we're going to be that model. I will say to you, I think we outdid ourselves."