HSPVA community hears about construction, final design plans for new building

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About 25 parents, staff and community members gathered for a final meeting to go over the construction process and design plans for the new High School for Performing and Visual Arts on Tuesday. HSPVA is one of 40 schools throughout HISD that will be rebuilt or renovated under the 2012 bond program.

The new 168,000-square-foot building will be located in downtown Houston between Caroline and Austin streets near the city’s renowned arts and theater district. The building’s entrance will be off of Austin Street and features double high glass windows and a wide stairwell.

“The really great thing is we’ve got four sides of traffic and two sides of trains with people passing us all hours of the day,” said HSPVA Principal Scott Allen. “I think it’s going to be a great energy and exposure for our kids.”

A few of the project highlights for the new school include an 800-seat main theatre with a balcony, dance and music studios, and art galleries. The five-level building will also include a modern outdoor dining area on the first level and outdoor roof terrace located near the library.

One of the main issues with previous design concepts for HSPVA surrounded downtown traffic concerns. With the streets all being one way, parents and staff voiced concern over students being dropped off into traffic. Architects were able to go back and draw a “drive thru” with three lanes on one side of the building for buses to unload and drop off students. An indention has also been designated for cars to drop off students near the main entrance of the building.

Bob Bedrich of Cadence McShane Construction spoke about phase one of the project, which he says will begin in the next few weeks. He also discussed specific details about the construction schedule, ranging from the groundbreaking of the site to furniture being moved into the new building. The school is expected to take about 26 months to complete, or about mid to late 2017.

“It’s going to get fast and furious here for everyone,” Bedrich said. “I know it seems like a long way away, but it’s going to go really fast for those out there building.”

Architect Kimberly Hickson of Gensler says the participation and feedback from parents, students, staff and community members remained very active throughout the entire design process of the new facility.

“People are very happy to be a part of the design process and are starting to feel like the building is going to be a reality, so there is a lot of excitement,” Hickson said.

HSPVA teacher Pat Bonner said although she wishes the construction could be completed by the start of 2017, she is excited to have a new facility with more space and storage.

“We’re glad to get the building,” Bonner said. ”I’m excited to have more space, to have a nice recital hall that’s raised, a wonderful theater to seat 800, and having much larger practice rooms and classrooms for choir and instrumental ensembles.”

HSPVA parent Carrie O’Conner said architects addressed the idea for more building space during the meeting and believes the design is well thought out.

“I think the design is very well thought out,”  O’Conner said. “The way the design is thoughtfully put on the lot is really nice, making use of all of the space. It’s identified and visual from all four sides of the block so that downtown really knows the students are there.”