Portland Public Schools is in the early stages of figuring out what a massive construction bond slated for the November ballot might look like. More than two-thirds of the proposed $1.4 billion outlay could be earmarked for extensive renovations to three high schools: Cleveland, Jefferson and Wilson.
The district hired Toronto-based IBI Group, which has offices in Portland, to head up modernization efforts at Wilson. Here’s are some of the proposals for renovations to the Southwest Portland school:
Surveys showed students, alumni and neighbors had little attachment to the ‘50s-era building. Reports show Wilson has only undergone renovations once in the 64 years it’s been in use.
IBI Architects’ Rebecca Grant told the school board that support for a new building was “overwhelming” during focus groups. The firm produced two potential approaches for a brand-new Wilson High based on that survey and various others.
The first schematic shows a new Wilson cutting the campus in half north to south. The west side would be flanked by a new football field and track that would separate the high school from Rieke Elementary.
On the east side, architects placed facilities for softball, baseball and tennis. The Wilson Pool would remain largely untouched — focus group attendees said the pool, which is only open during the summer when students are on break, is a community asset.
They also signaled a desire to separate the pool from the school, which may require upgrades to the aquatic center so it doesn’t rely on Wilson High’s locker rooms and heating systems.
You can read all of the Wilson planning documents HERE
Under these plans, the school’s primary entrance would face the parking lot closest to Southwest Capitol Highway — Wilson’s main entryway and administrative offices currently face Vermont.
Instead, the science labs and a fine arts center would face the residential area that flanks Wilson’s south end. A fitness center and gym would sit on the building’s west side with doors that open into the track and field.
The second set of schematics would have Wilson stretch from east to west on the south side of campus, perpendicular to the current building’s position.
The new Wilson’s main entry would face residential Vermont Street and an event plaza would separate the west side of the building from Rieke Elementary.
The football field and track would remain where they currently sit and the baseball field would be relocated to the northeast side of the Wilson property with tennis courts and a parking lot to the south.
Wilson Pool would again remain in its current location but sit wholly apart from the high school in this iteration of renovation plans. Under the first set schematics, the two buildings are close enough to share some facilities.
Students, parents and community members asked IBI Architects to centralize parking on any new Wilson campus. Right now, parking lots line the east and north perimeters of the campus.
Neighbors also asked the firm to consider keeping the athletics fields as far as possible from residential Vermont Street because of noise and light pollution during evening football games.
Focus group attendees also wanted the firm to consider the farmer’s market that currently uses parking space in the parking lot between Wilson and Rieke. The schematics where a new building would stretch from east to west would require the market to relocate.
None of the designs are set in stone. District officials said the final blueprints for the approximately 282,000 square foot building, as well as its price, would be developed after a series of public meetings and community input sessions.
Although the district’s initial polling shows solid support for a new construction bond, which pollsters told survey-takers would not raise their tax rate, voters may show more concern about this effort than ones approved in 2012 and 2017. That’s because district leaders low-balled cost estimates for the 2017 projects and would use $236 million from the new bond just to cover cost overruns from the last one.
The board has tapped new member Andrew Scott to serve as its lead and public face in developing November’s bond. He served as the City of Portland’s chief budget officer for nearly a decade and is now deputy chief operating officer at Metro.
Scott has made the point that he wasn’t on the board in 2017 and said during meetings he’s making sure the district toes a tight financial line this time around.