July 26, 2014

Elyria
Sunny
65°F
test

New high school unveiled: Elyria High

ELYRIA — The close-your-eyes-and-imagine phase for the new Elyria High School is almost over.

In several full color images Thursday, representatives from Architectural Vision Group and Regency Construction showed off the design of the new school, a building crafted using input from teachers and staff.

And so the new, more modern Elyria High was born — at least on paper.

From the design, one can get a sense of how the campus of more than 18 acres will appear when the four-year construction project is complete.

For example, stand on Middle Avenue and face the Washington Building at the current high school, and you’d be looking at the only building to survive the wrecking ball. Everything around it from Fifth Street to Seventh Street and west to West Avenue will be demolished.

To the right of the Washington Building, at the corner of Fifth Street and Middle Avenue, will sit a 16,000-square-foot main gymnasium. To the left will be the main administration building and academic area. The media center, with 20-feet high ceilings, will sit on the corner of Seventh Street and Middle Avenue.

The corner of Seventh Street and West Avenue will boast the performing arts center with a two-story, glass-encased atrium and 800-seat auditorium. Tennis courts and a student parking lot with roughly 172 parking spaces will dominate the corner of Fifth Street and West Avenue. That’s where students will enter through a large, landscaped courtyard that — after the start of the school day — will be secured behind a fence, allowing students to have access throughout the day.

“We wanted to make the Washington Building a jewel in the ring with the other buildings sitting back some to give the Washington Building the prominence it deserves,” said Andrejs Smiltars, principal architect. “It will look like one cohesive campus.”

More importantly, it will send a message to the community that their tax dollars will be hard at work, school officials said.

“This facility will show we care,” Elyria Schools Superintendent Paul Rigda said. “We care about our students and we care about their education. This will be a building everyone can be proud of. I envision it will be the kind of place residents can show off to visitors when they come to this city.”

The building will have many “cool” factors. Like on the lower level of the Washington Building, where there will be a coffee and food bar exclusively for senior students. A likewise concept will be added to the media center, giving it a contemporary bookstore feel.

The streets around the building will include bike paths and there will be dozens of parking spaces reserved exclusively for fuel-efficient vehicles, keeping with the district’s plan to build with an environmentally conscious mindset.

The biggest “green” initiative will be the more than 400 geothermal wells that will regulate the school’s heating and cooling.

The design, while not totally set in stone, did not disappoint those eager to get a first look at the building.

“This will be an exceptional space for our students to enjoy,” school board President Don Boddy said.

The board has had some idea of what the building would look like since December, when a rough layout was presented. But Monday night was the first time the building became a place people could see with clarity.

But even in that short time span, a few tweaks to the site plan were made. They are:

- The media center is not a round shape as was previously designed. Aesthetically, it did not go with the rest of the building the architect team decided.

- There will be a plaza leading directly to a parking lot from the auditorium, which will come in handy when that area is used for concerts and special programs.

- The front will have a little more curb appeal and place where a school memorial marker can be place.

- Several ditches were incorporated to deal with the potential problem of storm water retention. This could limit slightly the amount of space available for parking, but will not lower the number of spaces past 686, the number recommended by the Ohio Schools Facility Commission.

- All four corners of the campus will feature a textured pavement to encourage slower driving as well as to serve as a reminder that visitors are entering an educational campus.

Smiltars said that even now, with detailed plans in hand, the design remains a work in progress.

“Nothing is set in concrete, so to speak,” he said.

Looking at the construction timeline, which runs until 2011, it would seem as if the school is a long way away, but progress is being made.

 The demolition of most, if not all, of the homes and apartments acquired in the construction quadrant will be complete by the end of March, and the clearing of lots continues on a steady pace, school officials said.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.