CUYAHOGA FALLS — What should the new middle and high school building look like?
Members of the city school district community shared their answers to that question at a visual preference event in the high school auditorium on Thursday, May 13.
About 40 people attended the program.
The district is planning to construct a 370,000-square-foot building for middle and high school students on the campus of Bolich Middle School and the former Newberry Elementary School. The campus boundaries are Portage Trail, 13th Street, Silver Lake Avenue and Norma Street and the total cost of the construction is $88.5 million.
Both Bolich and Newberry will be abated and demolished to make room for the new building. Newberry is scheduled to be torn down this fall, while the demolition of Bolich is not yet scheduled. District officials are hoping to officially break ground in the fall of 2022 and to finish the building in fall of 2025.
More: Ten questions answered about Cuyahoga Falls school building project
Leading up to the event, district residents were encouraged to take a photo of their favorite piece of architecture in Cuyahoga Falls, write about why they believe it’s representative of the community and send it in to the district.
More than 200 people offered submissions and about 10,000 logged in to view the community assignment, according to Ellen McClure, the district’s director of human resources.
Ryan Schmit, architect with ThenDesign Architecture (TDA) — which is designing the building— said the response from the community was “overwhelming.”
Some of the favorite pieces of architecture mentioned in residents’ responses were: city hall (red brick); the Natatorium (light brick and open space glass); the Clock Tower (light brick, open space glass); an old brick-style house at 122 Broad Blvd. (detailing around windows); the Oakwood Cemetery Chapel (elliptical arches); Burntwood Tavern (combination of old and new styles); The Workz (which formerly housed the Falls Theater); Fire Station 1; the Associated Materials building (mid-century office structure); and the Riverfront archway along the Cuyahoga River.
Schmit said he felt the community members’ comments reflected a love of history, as well as interests in intricate brick, white stone and glass work, “statement buildings,” structures that “echo” one another on stylistic elements and ones that have a traditional architectural style.
TDA representatives had meeting participants look at pairs of photos of buildings, select which one they preferred and explain why they liked the option they selected. This same exercise can be viewed online at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfzgFlYVgkfNIjuFMsr2C5I8rrV31wwZKkmPMJ1Eh_LU5KOag/viewform
One community member praised a building that had a “timeless” quality to it.
“It’s going to look like a timeless building in 50 years,” the speaker said. “It’s going to look like a timeless building in 100 years.”
The “contemporary” look of a different structure caught the eye of a participant.
“I strongly believe that the new buildings need to have that new environment that represents the new technologies, both in the building materials and design, and the opportunities for the students,” the speaker said.
The mixture of materials used on another building appealed to one participant, while another noted that the trees in a photo of a building were a major reason why people selected it. She said the construction of the new school building should try to make use of natural elements.
A participant said she favored a photo of a building where windows were in the front of the structure, so passersby could see activities occurring. On that same building, a different speaker said he admired the covered walkway as a protection against rainy weather.
Schmit said the feedback will help the architects figure out “where the aesthetic style goes, [and] where those in the community think it goes.”
Scott Alleman, an architect with ThenDesign Architecture, who is serving as project manager, said the image pairs discussed during the May 13 meeting will be made available online to garner more community reaction.
TDA officials were meeting with school staff this week, with discussions focused on designing the building’s interiorg to meet the staff’s educational needs. The community input sessions will center on designing the building’s exterior.
“What we’re trying to derive from our conversations …with the community is what do we want that place to feel like,” said Alleman. “It’s going to be a place where people make memories. How does the community see that architecture reflecting itself, reflecting the community?”
Alleman said TDA will share an update at the board of education meeting on June 2.
TDA will work on a schematic design for the building during the summer and give a presentation at a community meeting this fall.
Vote on state funding upcoming
In April, the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) approved nearly $32.8 million in state funding to help pay for the construction of the new building.
On May 24, the state’s Controlling Board will vote on the final step to release the money to the district.
In November 2019, voters approved a 9.83-mill tax levy that included a 5.33-mill, 36-year bond issue that will generate about $80.6 million.
Of that amount, the district will use $55.8 million to help pay for constructing the new 6-12 building and abating and tearing down Bolich and Newberry.
The remaining $24.8 million from the bond issue is being used for items such as constructing a 1,400-seat performing arts center, a 200-seat Black Box Theater, and a 5,000-seat stadium. The state money is not being used for these features.
Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at [email protected], or on Twitter at @keren_phil.