HSPVA breaks ground for new school in downtown theater district

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Construction at the new High School for the Performing & Visual Arts got an enthusiastic start on Sunday with a groundbreaking ceremony that drew hundreds of people to the school’s new location downtown.

“This land has been waiting for 40 years for the chance to serve the students of Houston and now it’s come,” said HISD Trustee Mike Lunceford to a crowd that gathered at 790 Austin. The city block formerly served as the home of what was then known as Sam Houston High School (now the Sam Houston Math, Science & Technology Center) and HISD headquarters.

The location is seen as a key component of the district’s only dedicated magnet school for the arts because of its proximity to Houston’s Theater District, which administrators hope will enhance collaboration with downtown arts groups. Other trustees in attendance were Wanda Adams, Paula Harris and Greg Meyers.

“This amazing new facility will take all our students to a higher level,” said HSPVA Principal Scott Allen. “This is an opportunity to embrace the city in new ways.”

Sunday’s event drew many of the school’s supporters with representatives from the Mayor’s office, Houston Opera, Discovery Green, Theatre under the Stars, the Houston Ballet, the Downtown Redevelopment Authority/Central Houston and the Houston Arts Alliance.

Robert M. Eury, president of Central Houston, Inc., described the new school as a beacon and credited it with contributing to the area’s economic development. Overall, he said there is more than a dozen projects worth more than $1.3 billion in the area. “HISD was right for holding onto this site for so many years so we could be here today,” said Eury, who also serves on the district’s Bond Oversight Committee.

The event featured an appearance by HSPVA alumnus and actress Devyn Tyler, as well as performances by students in the school’s creative writing, vocal, musical theatre and mariachi departments.

Mason Sonnier, an HSPVA freshman, hopes he’ll be spending his senior year in the new five-story building designed by Gensler architects that will feature a main theater, mini theater, black box and studios for music and art, as well as a roof garden and outdoor studio.

“We’ve been needing a new building for a very long time,” he said. “It’s great to see we’re going to finally have it. There’s going to be so much opportunity here.”

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