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Filling the gap: Gavras Center in Auburn eyes state support for $880K expansion project

Filling the gap: Gavras Center in Auburn eyes state support for $880K expansion project


AUBURN — The E. John Gavras Center has big plans for its future. 

The Auburn nonprofit's preschool and child care facility's expansion is one of the Central New York Regional Economic Development Council's 2016 priority projects. The center is seeking $176,249 from the state to support the $881,245 project. 

Danielle Ambrose, the Gavras Center's CEO and executive director, said the organization will acquire 4,600 square feet of space within its existing North Street building from Arc of Seneca Cayuga, which shares the facility with the Gavras Center. 

Arc will retain 7,000 square feet of space within the building. Once the acquisition is complete, the Gavras Center will occupy roughly 22,000 square feet on the property. 

The additional space will allow the center to move its motor room and exercise rooms to a section of the building that's currently a cafeteria. The current motor rooms will be transformed into full-day classrooms. 

"This is really why we were able to keep the costs to what it is because we're able to shift so much on this side because of the way this building was built," Ambrose said. 

The project also includes a new roof for the building and a new playground. The facility's existing roof and playground were installed in 1994. Ambrose said the current roof was installed during the center's last expansion, which added three classrooms to the building. 

Once the project is complete, the Gavras Center will be able to serve up to 108 children through its preschool program and 30 in its daycare program. Full-day special education programming will be available for an additional 16 children, Ambrose said. 

To receive the Central New York Regional Economic Development Council's support, the Gavras Center had to submit a consolidated funding application. That effort was spearheaded by David Sperduti, the center's operations and planning director. 

Sperduti noted that one of the requirements is to submit letters of support for the proposed project. For the Gavras Center, that wasn't much of a challenge. 

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"From the foundations to the school board people right on through to different companies in the area, everybody just stepped right up and put their support in," he said. 

A major factor in the center's decision to expand was the closure of Neighborhood House, a daycare facility that operated in Auburn for more than a century. When Neighborhood House closed its doors earlier this year, Ambrose said it left more than 100 families without child care services. 

Tracy Verrier, who serves as the Cayuga Economic Development Agency's executive director and one of the county's representatives on the regional council, said the project will help remove barriers to workforce development. One of those barriers, she said, is child care. 

"If you don't have somewhere to safely leave your child during the day, what are you going to do?" she said. "There's not a lot of alternatives. With Neighborhood House closing last year and with the huge demand for child care, this will really start to meet some of that need." 

The project will help address workforce development in another way. 

According to details outlined in the regional council's 2016 progress report, the Gavras Center's expansion project will create 27 new jobs and retain 25 existing positions. The center's five-year payroll is estimated at more than $2.9 million. 

The center will learn next week whether it's awarded the state grant. The state regional council awards will be held Thursday, Dec. 8 in Albany. 

Even if the Gavras Center doesn't receive the funding, the plan is to move forward with the expansion project. Ambrose said the state grant would account for about 20 percent of the project's cost. Foundations will cover 70 percent of the costs and the center will pick up the remaining 10 percent. 

Without the state funding, Ambrose said they would ask local foundations to provide more support. 

"If we didn't get the (state funds) it'd probably stretch the time frame out a bit for us to raise that money," Sperduti said. 

If the state does support the project, the center expects the expansion would be completed over a four-year period. 

"It's exciting to be able to grow in a time when a lot of agencies are shrinking," Ambrose said. 

Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.


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