Rochester co. picked for Zoo work

October 30, 2013 Updated Oct 30, 2013 at 1:21 PM EDT

By James Fink, Buffalo Business First

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Rochester co. picked for Zoo work

October 30, 2013 Updated Oct 30, 2013 at 1:21 PM EDT

The Pike Co., one of Rochester's largest general contractor, was selected as the low-bidder for the new Arctic Edge exhibit at the Buffalo Zoo.

Pike's bid was one of eight submitted to zoo officials. The zoo's board of directors Tuesday awarded the construction contract to Pike, based on the recommendation of the project architect Gwen Howard from Foit-Albert & Associates.

Zoo officials estimated construction of the 40,000-square-foot exhibit would cost around $11.6 million, depending on final design and other factors. While the project is Pike's first at the Buffalo Zoo, it has constructed a number of exhibits for zoos in upstate New York.

Building the exhibit is key for the zoo keeping at least one and maybe both of its polar bear cubs, Luna and Kali. Luna, one of a trio of polar bear cubs born in the U.S. is on indefinite loan to the zoo. Kali, property of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, may eventually be relocated to St. Louis.

The zoo is under a mandate from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to build a new exhibit for the bears or risk losing them.

The project received a major boost earlier this week when the local Democratic State Assembly members allocated $400,000 for the exhibit to help fill a $2 million financial gap in the nearly $16 million development. The zoo has undertaken a fund raising effort to raise another $1.4 million it needs for the project.

The exhibit will serve as home for polar bears and wolves. If the zoo can raise the necessary funds, it will be able to add bald eagles and Canadian lynx to the project.

The 40,000-square-foot exhibit will be constructed where the current polar bear pit stands. The new exhibit will house bears, bald eagles and various wolf species. It will replace the early-1930s pit that the AZA deemed obsolete.

Earlier this month, the zoo awarded a demolition contract for the project to Buffalo-based Total Wrecking & Environment Inc., the low-bidder. Total Wrecking bid $238,000.

The exhibit will be reviewed on Nov. 6 by the Buffalo Planning Board.

Polar bears are among the most popular of zoo animals.

Proof of that can be found with the zoo's own attendance numbers this year. The playful Luna and Kali are credited with a spike approaching 60,000 additional zoo visitors this year.

The zoo is on pace to surpass 500,000 visitors through its turnstiles this year. Last year, it welcomed 456,000 visitors.