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AHS rebuild committee reviews 3 new exterior designs, gives go-ahead to memorial effort

UPDATED, Dec. 1: Three fresh designs for the front of a rebuilt Arlington High School are headed your way at the Town Hall forum set for Wednesday, Nov. 28, changed from Tuesday because of visiting hours for the late Kevin Greeley.

option a 400 112018Option A, the more traditional of three Arlington High designs presented Nov. 20. / HMFH Architects

High school building committee members reviewed the designs Tuesday, Nov. 20, offering their pluses and minuses about the traditional and nontraditional looks -- one with white columns and two without. All three are included in the full HMFH presentation >> 

In addition, during the four-hour meeting, the committee heard a new idea for a memorial in front of the rebuilt school that would include as part of its design the white columns dating from the 1930s. The panel voted to establish a memorial committee.

"We replicate the historic building," said Town Meeting member Ted Peluso, who proposed the notion of a smaller version of the current entrance as part of a memorial. "We see the building that we love."

Responses to some public pleas

This suggestion occurred coincidentally on the same evening as a separate agenda item proposing a memorial subcommittee. They came as HMFH, the project architect, reflected responses to pleas since July from some in the public retain the long-accustomed look of the high school. Those connected to Save Our Historic Arlington High School continued to press for retaining more green space along Mass. Ave.


Globe, Nov. 24: Proposal divides Arlington


While discussion Nov. 6 focused on interior ideas, the presentation Nov. 20 by HMFH principal architect Lori Cowles went back outside. The three designs presented moved from a more familiar front for a rebuilt AHS, which includes columns, to two notions for a dramatic, flaring-canopy entrance.

"I love the variety," said committee member Sandy Pooler, the deputy town manager. Saying he was expressing his "inner high school," he asked, referring to the canopy design in option C, "How can I get my Frisbee up there?" He expressed concern about debris landing atop the entry.

"This one is growing on me," member Jud Pierce, a former School Committee member, said of option C. He called it "much more kinder, open," and said it has elements of the ICA, the Institute of Contemporary Art, beside Boston Harbort.

To shape option A, Cowles said, "We buried the auditorium."

Columns elsewhere, cost

AHS Principal Matt Janger asked about considering columns in other places in the redesign. Cowles said that preserving them, wherever they are, means "bringing them back to their glory."

Committee member John Cole, an architect and former member of the town building committee, asked whether the cost and timeline would be the same for all three designs. Cowles said they would be.

"We want a building that is welcoming, clear, significant and has a uniqueness," Cowles said.

Superintendent Kathleen Bodie referred to the number of windows. "I'm not so keen on transparency," she said. "All that glass, with all that exposure .... I don't necessarily want the inner working of the school [seen]."

Pierce expressed an opposite view, citing the Ottoson. "It's so sad," he said, adding he is for more light and glass than not.

Vote backs Grove access

Committee Chairman asked whether any of the three designs would lead to change in interior proposals discussed No. 6. Cowles said they would not.

During an update about traffic planning for the rebuilt school, the committee voted unanimously to accept a motion to have Grove Street be an option for vehicular access.

Cole said the move would preserve the ability to make connections to Grove Street, even if the committee ends up not pursuing the option.

At present, there is no vehicle access from the high school across the DPW Yard to Grove. Vehicle access at the rear of AHS routes via Mill Brook Drive and Mill Street. Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine said he would tell DPW Director Mike Rademacher to have the architect include Grove access in plans for a $10 million upgrade to the yard.

The committee reacted favorably to Peluso's suggestion for a memorial that would include a replica of the school's current entrance.

In a separate matter, committee member William McCarthy, AHS assistant principal, was named to lead the effort to study what should be included in a memorial. The inventory will include all memorials on the AHS site and reported back to the committee. Later, this subcommittee may make suggestions on how to acknowledge memorials on the new site. Expected to be involved will be the town's veterans' services director and Arlington Public Art.

Critic doubts compromise

During public participation, early in the meeting, Carl Wagner, part of Save Our Historic Arlington High School, which has been lobbying since the summer to retain the white entry columns and more green space, asked how many present were concerned about losing green space to a rebuilt school. Four of six people then present raised their hands.

Wagner objected to two opinion columns -- one in YourArlington.com calling for compromise and another in The Advocate by Town Meeting member Gordon Jamieson

"Taking two-thirds of lawn is not compromise," he said.

Days after the meeting, Wagner posted publicly a link to a column rebutting Jamieson's views, which he said The Advocate would publish Nov. 29. Read it here >> 

He asked the building committee to "stop the traffic mess" and said it was "giving away two soccer files to DPW employees."

Later in the meeting Ron Alex, an architect who supports Save Our Historic Arlington High School, said that while he appreciates the work Cowles has done, he said he continues to seek a statement offering HMFH's overall vision about design.

Seeks overall design vision

He said the design incorporating the columns "hit a home run," adding that look "may not be what community is looking for."

He said that option B is is his favorite, noting, "You really are right on the sidewalk, as he seeks less imposition on green space.

At the Nov. 28 Town Hall forum, the committee plans to gather community feedback. Then an online survey was to be conducted from Nov. 28 through Dec. 1.

The Dec. 4 building committee meeting expects to begin focusing on estimating the cost of the project.

Winter schedule

Looking ahead, the committee discussed its winter schedule, as it prepares to submit a schematic design to the Mass. School Building Authority:

Jan. 14, 2019: School district documents available to estimators;

Jan. 28: Estimates due;

Jan. 29: First estimate reconciliation meeting (HMFH/Skanska);

Jan. 29: Building committee meeting: Estimate update and/or a discussion of values engineering (Amy Speare of the building committee explained the term Nov. 24: "We will have a discussion about the value and cost of certain elements of the building to help us make decisions about what stays and what is removed.");

Jan. 30: Second estimate reconciliation meeting (HMFH/Skanska);

Jan. 31: Building committee meeting: Further values-engineering discussion (placeholder); and

Feb. 5: Building committee meeting: Approve total project budget for submission to MSBA.


Nov. 10, 2018: AHS design discussion turns to interior ideas, and reaction is positive

Nov. 7, 2018, opinion: Let's keep working toward an AHS design compromise
Sept. 25, 2018: AHS rebuild update: Some urge more green; $308M called top cost
Sept. 5, 2018: AHS rebuild design raises questions, but process has just begun
Aug. 29: AHS rebuild approved to move on to schematic design stage
June 26, 2018: DESIGN CHOSEN: High school to be rebuilt, not renovated
June 6, 2018: AHS rebuild process moves toward one design by end of June
 Official information about the high school building project  
June 7, 2018: Official summary of June 4 meeting
April 13, 2018: Town manager clarifies costs for new AHS: It's still early
March 7, 2018: THIRD FORUM: 100 tour AHS, look into future; hear flexibility touted
Jan. 12, 2018: 125 attend as public process to launch AHS update underway
Dec. 20, 2017: Could new AHS be built elsewhere in town? 4 sites suggested
Dec. 12, 2017: AHS Building Committee prepares to focus on its visions'
Nov. 11, 2017: Cost, timeline, design for a changed Arlington High emerges
Oct. 24, 2017: Designer chosen for revamped Arlington High project
Oct. 4, 2017: 3 finalists chosen to design revamped Arlington High
May 25, 2016: State says Arlington High School rebuild can advance
Feb. 15, 2017: Arlington High School rebuild OK'd for next stage: Is it feasible? 
State Building Authority process >> 

This news summary was published Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018, and updated to add a Globe link. Updated Nov. 28 and Dec. 1, to clarify copy related two memorial issues.

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