National Register listing expected any day for Sarasota High buildings

Building 4 at Sarasota High School, designed by Paul Rudolph, is awaiting a listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Photo by Norman Schimmel

Sarasota County and state preservationists could find out as early as this week whether the Paul Rudolph addition to Sarasota High School will be listed on the National Register of Historic Places, The Sarasota News Leader has learned.

Barbara Mattick, the deputy state historic preservation officer for survey and registration, told the News Leader June 20 that she had calculated the timing on the basis of when the materials were submitted.

Mattick said the National Register publishes a weekly activities report with all the new buildings on its list; the update also is posted on the National Register’s website.

Sarasota County officials had told the News Leader last week that they anticipated notification by July 15. However, Mattick said her office sent the application by Federal Express on May 8. Once the National Register receives an application, she said, staff members have 45 days to log it in, “and they usually take 45 days, because they have things pouring in from all over the country.”

Mattick said she was encouraged that the SHS addition, with the structures known as Building 4 and the West Gymnasium, would make it onto the list, because someone generally called her office if National Register staff encountered a problem with an application. “If we haven’t heard anything by now,” she said, “it’s looking pretty good.”

Caroline Zucker, chairwoman of the Sarasota County School Board, told the News Leader June 19 that she had been unaware of Sarasota County History Center staff having pursued the National Register listing.

Nonetheless, she said, “I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to highlight Paul Rudolph’s work, especially as it pertains to our school.”

Rudolph, who went on to become chairman of the Yale University Architecture Department, is known internationally as one of the principal architects of the Sarasota School of Architecture.

The National Register application says, “The Sarasota High School addition was the last major commission Paul Rudolph completed in Sarasota.”

Scott Lempe, the Sarasota Public Schools’ chief operating officer, told the News Leader he was made aware of the nomination about five years ago. The School Board was afforded an opportunity to oppose the nomination, he said, but “we certainly weren’t going to say, ‘No.’”

The owner of any building nominated for the National Register legally has to be notified about the process, Mattick said. If the owner of private property objects, the process halts, she said.

With a publicly owned building, she added, the owner can object, but that would not prevent the process from going forward.

Asked whether inclusion on the National Register had any bearing on renovations to a building, Mattick said, “Basically it doesn’t prevent an owner from doing what they want with the property.”

However, if any state or federal permitting is necessary for such renovations, she said, “our compliance review section has to be given an opportunity to comment.”

Nonetheless, Mattick said, “We don’t have any police authority.”

A National Register listing for the SHS structures “doesn’t change what we’re doing,” Lempe told the News Leader.

Building 4 and the West Gymnasium have been in the spotlight over the past months, as the School Board has been preparing for a rebuilding of the Sarasota High School campus to modernize facilities and make the property more secure. The National Register application notes that those buildings were constructed in 1958-59. The gym is separated from Building 4 by a covered walkway.

Preservationists initially were alarmed when the architect hired by the School Board, Harvard Jolly, issued tentative renderings of how Building 4 could be redesigned, with glass encasing the front of the building and the walkways.

Because of those concerns and continuing disgruntlement among preservationists about the School Board’s demolition of the original Riverview High School building, also designed by Rudolph in the late 1950s, Sarasota school district staff held a two-day charrette early this month, so any interested community member could participate in the planning process for the SHS rebuild.

Sarasota architect Joe King, known as an authority on Paul Rudolph, smiles during the June 19 Sarasota County School Board meeting. To his left are proposed options for the SHS rebuild. King was a participant in the SHS charrette. Photo by Rachel Hackney

Lempe told the News Leader last week he was pleased and surprised that 100% of the charrette participants voted for a plan dubbed “Option 5,” which preserves the exterior of Building 4.

Lempe discussed the outcome of the charrette with the School Board during its workshop on June 19. “Lots of teachers, lots of students, lots of parents” participated in the sessions, he told the board.

Although district staff had put a $26.5 million estimate on the SHS rebuild, Lempe said, going with Option 5 would raise that cost to $30.5 million. Still, he pointed out, none of the six options the charrette members reviewed could have been undertaken for $26.5 million.

Lempe also noted the $30.5 million figure wasn’t final, as it was too early in the process to ask the general contractor, Tandem Construction of Lakewood Ranch, to put a price tag on its work.

“You’re also going to tell us where the [extra] money’s coming from, right?” Zucker asked Lempe.

He replied that the district’s capital budget did have sufficient funds to support a higher cost while permitting the School Board to pursue other projects members had identified as having a high priority.

Lempe added that he asked the charrette participants to vote between the two options that were closer to the original estimate of $26.5 million, but, he joked, “I almost thought that I was going to have to run to the parking lot. … They were having none of it.”

The walkway to the West Gym has proven a popular spot for birds and squirrels. Photo by Norman Schimmel

With the decision not to glass in the walkways, Zucker said, she was worried about how staff was going to be able to handle the problem of bird and squirrel waste matter, which had accumulated in those structures over the years.

Lempe said staff already was planning to remove wiring strung through those walkways, as birds and squirrels were used to sitting on that wiring. Getting rid of the wires should help, he added, but supplemental options would be considered to prevent the waste problem from recurring.

The School Avenue question

Although district staff had been operating on the assumption that they would be unable to close the section of School Avenue that runs through the SHS campus, Lempe said June 19, he had learned that residents of the adjacent Alta Vista neighborhood might welcome such a change.

The Alta Vista Neighborhood Association will hold its next meeting June 28, Lempe said; district administrative staff has asked to be on the agenda to discuss School Avenue.

He also planned to initiate discussions with City of Sarasota staff on the topic, he said.

“I am very concerned with School Avenue,” School Board member Jane Goodwin said.

“Let us spend some time talking with the neighbors, talking with the city staff and report back to you,” Lempe told her.

Board member Carol Todd suggested that staff include the topic of tennis courts for SHS when those discussions were held.

Referencing email they had received about that matter, board members said they were interested in options for tennis courts on the SHS campus.

Lempe said Superintendent Lori White already was working with a small group on the prospect that courts could be placed on the east end of the campus.

Details of Option 5

Material Lempe provided to the School Board members listed the following features of the rebuild plan approved by charrette participants for Sarasota High School:

• Leave the entryway at the top of the grand stairway of Building 4 open. Security measures will be provided, but not in the form of glassed-in space.

• Use the entry to Building 4 as the primary entryway to the campus.

• Rehabilitate Building 4 to provide 21st Century Learning opportunities.

• Rehabilitate the West Gymnasium to accommodate the programs housed in Building 42, which is close to the original 1926 Sarasota High building on U.S. 41.

• Build a new gym to the northeast of the current West Gym.

• Convert the current media center to a cafeteria/kitchen.

• Convert the current administration area to media.

• Relocate a portion of administration to the east side of Building 4.

• Create a social networking space in the courtyard.

Lempe noted that relocating school programs from Building 42 would move students closer to the center of the campus and reduce the security perimeter.