Workers and guests gathered on the fourth floor of the new Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts on Wednesday to watch as a crane hoisted an evergreen tree to the top of the structure, marking construction of the building’s highest point.
McCarthy Building Companies, contractor on the $80.2 million project, sponsored the Topping Out Ceremony as a way to thank workers and sub-contractors and celebrate their strong safety record. Company officials said the project has an average of 180 workers on site each day and has logged more than 175,000 man hours without a recordable safety incident.
“This is a major milestone for the project,” McCarthy Senior Project Manager Wesley Moncreif said. “These are the guys that show up every day and put the work in that got us to this point.”
The highlight of the ceremony involved placing an evergreen tree atop the structure, which is a builders’ tradition dating back to ancient times. For some, the tree symbolizes the safety of the project. For others, the tree is thought to bring good luck and prosperity to the future occupants of the building.
As part of the celebration, workers also were treated to a catered lunch and door prizes along with Mariachi and vocal performances by HSPVA students. They also heard from project officials who thanked them for their efforts and discussed the importance of the building.
“Kinder HSPVA is going to be amazing,” Principal Scott Allen told the crowd of more than 300. “This facility will provide the spaces our academic and arts programs deserve.”
Allen credited past HSPVA principals Herb Karpicke and Annette Watson, both in attendance, for laying the groundwork for the school’s outstanding programs, as well as for their efforts to obtain the new facility.
Several parents, staff, alumni, and Project Advisory Team members also attended the celebration.
“It’s exciting to see it come together,” said HSPVA Counselor Travis Springfield, who served on the school’s Project Advisory Team. “Being in the space, you can envision where classes and performance spaces will be. It’s really coming together quickly now.”
The new 168,000-square-foot facility, located between Caroline and Austin streets near the city’s renowned arts and theater district, will include five stories of class and program space, plus two levels of underground parking. The building, designed by Gensler, will have its main entrance along Austin Street and will feature dramatic double-high glass windows and a wide stairwell.
Other features include an 800-seat main theater with a balcony, dance and music studios, a modern outdoor dining area on the first level, and an outdoor roof terrace located near the library. The school has a target completion of fourth quarter 2018.
“To me, this represents the culmination of the vision and efforts of so many people,” said Friends of HSPVA Chair Bob Boblitt, whose two daughters attended the school. “The new school will be such a source of pride for HISD and the City of Houston.”
Kinder HSPVA is among 40 schools being renovated or rebuilt across the district as part of the 2012 Bond Program. Construction is underway at roughly three dozen campuses — more activity than any other time in district history. Almost 50 percent of bond projects will be complete and open to students by the end of this summer. Once all work is complete, HISD will boast of one of the most modern portfolios of urban high schools in the nation.