Amherst partners with Sweet Home for a community center in an office park | Local News

A community center offering a range of services for children, families and seniors is scheduled to open in an office park in northwest Amherst in September 2023, officials said Wednesday.

The Northwest Amherst Community Center is a partnership between the city and the Sweet Home Central School District to provide recreation, counseling and childcare programs for generations of residents under one roof in a part of Amherst which had no such place.

The center will take over a vacant 29,000 square foot building in Northpointe Commerce Park, with owner Zaepfel Development carrying out necessary renovations and incorporating those costs into lease payments for the city and district. Some initial services could begin as early as September, with full programming ready a year later.

“It’s about enriching the lives of families,” Amherst Supervisor brian Kulpa said Wednesday at 220 Northpointe Parkway at a press conference attended by city and district officials, including Sweet Home students.

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Kulpa said Amherst and Sweet Home leaders have for years recognized the need in the northwest part of town for a community center that provides activities and resources for children and their families. The area has a dense population and a higher poverty rate than other parts of Amherst, officials said.

Sweet Home, in particular, saw the need for a community center crystallize when the neighborhood struggled to find space for a summer reading program for young students, according to the city.

Given the lack of development-ready land in northwest Amherst, city and district officials turned their attention to opening the center in an existing building.

The Zaepfel structure at 220 Northpointe, north of North French Road and west of Sweet Home Road, previously housed offices for Paychex and Delaware North, Kulpa said, but the two companies have since vacated the space.

Kulpa said opening a community center in an office park is a “leap of faith,” but he thinks it will appeal to employees at the sprawling Northpointe business park who want services for their children close to where they work. work.

The lease has an annual cost of $377,000, and the city and district have the option to purchase the center after 15 years.

Some of the money for the center will come from funds from the federal Community Development Block Grant program that covers the cost of providing services in low- and middle-income communities, the city said. Additional funding will come from tax revenue generated by the UBMD medical building currently under construction near Amherst’s Northtown Center recreation complex.

The UBMD project in the Audubon neighborhood was a key initial phase of the larger Amherst Central Park project which aimed to reshape a large portion of the city, but which has undergone numerous revisions over the years.

Zaepfel will soon begin upgrading the space, with a gym, outdoor play spaces and other renovations planned for the facility. There will be space for basketball, pickleball and volleyball as well as a fitness room.

The center will also have a large community meeting space, classrooms, smaller meeting rooms and offices.

The center will host after-school programs, daycares and day camps; programs for the elderly; family support services; mental health and behavioral health counseling; and other services, officials said.

“This is the true result of a partnership between two government entities working together to improve the lives of people in this neighborhood and community,” said Sweet Home Superintendent Michael Ginestre, who took office in August and credited his predecessor. , Anthony Day, for his work on the project.

The Sweet Home neighborhood also covers part of the city of Tonawanda and residents of that neighborhood will also be able to use the center’s services, officials said.

Amherst and district officials are always seeking feedback on what services the public would like to see offered at the center. They will hold two open days at the future center: from 10 a.m. to noon on May 14 and from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on May 16. Anyone with questions or interested in working with center organizers can email [email protected]

Jill E. Washington