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School Board picks architects promising major Stillwell renovation

The Henderson County School Board voted unanimously on Thursday to hire architects who promise a renovation of the historic core classroom building and auditorium at Hendersonville High School along with a second new classroom building, a new gym and other new buildings.

The board vote came after members heard presentations about construction of a new or renovated Hendersonville High School from the two finalists vying for a contract to design the job. It rejected a recommendation of an ad hoc committee, which had voted 5-2 for the county architect of record.

PFA-LS3P, a collaboration of Asheville-based pfa and Charlotte-based LS3P, and ClarkNexsen, the county's architect of record, were the last two firms left standing among nine that responded originally to an invitation to bid on a new round of HHS plans.

PFA-LS3P presented the more detailed plans for a combination Stillwell building renovation and new construction. The partnership said it would:

  • Preserve and renovate the Stillwell building and 1974 gym.
  • Raze the vocational-ed building, cafeteria, bandroom and old gym.
  • Add a new cafeteria and vocational-ed building, renovate and expand the Stillwell auditorium, add a new administrative office and a classroom building along Oakland Street and build a second gym next to the 1974 Jim Pardue gymnasium.
  • Complete the project in two phases, without housing students in mobile units, and finish by August 2022.
  • Design a single point of entry for security reasons, allowing access to the Stillwell Building and the new classroom building.
  • Add an enclosed courtyard behind the Stillwell building in roughly the spot where the vocational-ed building stands today.

PFA-LS3P estimated the cost at $52.4 million.

ClarkNexsen presented five options, including Stillwell renovation and new construction options and one, called Hail Mary, that was basically the same as the all-new construction option the School Board no longer favors.

"There's such a price difference between the two firms," board Chair Amy Lynn Holt said. "Clearly, they were showing a full renovation of the Stillwell building, with bigger class sizes, everthing in that building." Even if it added other options, "We're still millions of dollars under the first number ClarkNexsen is coming in on."

Mary Louise Corn, who voted for ClarkNexsen in the School Board vote last week, said PFA had made the best presentation.

"Some said only consider ClarkNexsen. They've got all the lay of the land," she said. "Some have said ClarkNexsen shouldn't even be considered because we don't trust them. There's no doubt PFA made the best presentaiton. It's fine and easy to put on a dog and pony show. It's easy to make the rendering look great. ... are very honest about the price, I think they're telling us things we don't want to hear." But she added, "I would be fine with PFA."

Amy Lynn Holt strongly endorsed PFA.

"At the end of the day, I still feel that PFA did an amazing job," she said. "I think it's undisputed."

"I feel great. I think it's the right choice," said Blair Craven, who has been the School Board's strongest advocate for saving the Stillwell building. "Several people said it, this project does deserve a fresh look. ... We'll see what that price is going to be for them to get us to hopefully a guaranteed maximum price and set of drawings that we can bring before the county that will be approved."

How does he see the path to getting three vote on the County Commission to approve the new plan?

"I truly believe that PFA is going to put something forward that they're going to be proud of, that they're not going to be able to say no to and that they will ultimately check the boxes and say yes, we're going to be able to do this. We're going to have at least one new county commissioner, possibly two with the election coming up, but I think we can get three votes no matter how that comes out."

Holt said the choice for her came down to listening to constituents.

"To me it's what the community wants," she said. "I didn't have anybody from that part of the community" favoring another shot for ClarkNexsen.

"I would hope that when they see we're being fiscally responsible, that we're within the budget and that we're producing something for that community and that's great for the students I hope that they would approve it," she said. "I would like to see from here and out — we can confer with the county — but that it really big directed by us. When you heard those firms talk, I never heard them say, 'When we designed a school for the county commission.' I never heard them say that. That's the process. We're directed to be over schools."

Boney, lead architect for LS3P, told the board he is the third-generation to lead a firm that specializes in school renovation and construction, having completed 2,500 projects over that time and 576 in the past 20 years. The firm touts its adherence to the "three Cs," meaning it's "creative, competent and cost conscious." The architects "design places where students want to be," it says.

Boney and PFA Project Leader Maggie Carnevale touted the two firms' experience in renovating historic school buildings and combining new construction and renovation in tight urban spaces, citing Asheville High School, the historic West Charlotte High School and others. They pledged to deliver an "open and honest" process, communicate clearly and often with the board and the public and give detailed stakeholder updates.

They proposed this timeline:

  • Deliver drawings by January 2019.
  • January-September 2019: Advanced planning and cost projections.
  • September 2019-Jan. 1, 2021: Phase 1 construction (new cafeteria and career technical education building).
  • November 2019-Jan. 1, 2021: Phase 2 construction documents, cost estimates.
  • November-December 2020: Phase 2 permitting.
  • January-May 2021: Demolish cafeteria, band room, auxiliary gym and CTE building.
  • May 2021-August 2022. Phase 2 construction (administrative offices and classrooms along Oakland Street and auxiliary gym south of the Pardue gym).
  • August 2022: Turn over project to Henderson County School Board. Students move in.

 

 

This is a developing story. Return to the Lightning for updates.