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Adaptive Reuse

You wouldn’t know it, but several classrooms at the 9th Grade Center of Garner Magnet High School in Garner, N.C., used to be cinema screening rooms with sloped floors. A portion of another classroom was once a concessions stand. HVAC machinery is in what was once a projection room, and a long central corridor was the pathway to each theatre. The main impetus for the $5.6-million adaptive reuse project by the Wake County Public School System: to alleviate crowding in the fast-growing district’s nearby high school, while plans for a new high school develop. It’s a complex process, as pointed out by Brian Conklin, the district’s senior director of Facilities Design & Construction, project designer Mete Gurel of Gurel Architecture; Donna Francis, principal of architecture firm Clark Nexsen, which has worked with the district on adaptive reuse elsewhere; and Garner Magnet High School Principal Drew Cook.

Wake County’s other adaptive reuse projects include turning a medical product manufacturing facility in Apex, N.C., into Laurel Park Elementary School, a 2008 project designed by a firm that’s now part of Clark Nexsen; converting a Winn Dixie supermarket building into Wakefield Ninth Grade Center; and now adapting a former Coca-Cola facility into a career and technical education school that opened last fall.

050Elsewhere, structures are adapted quite differently: Take Leonardo da Vinci School for Gifted Learners in Green Bay, Wisc. The public district’s program grew and needed new quarters, Principal Tammy Van Dyke explains. So, officials acquired a vacant, 30,000-squarefoot building — it had been a private religious school for K-8, then a daycare center before becoming vacant for five years — added another 5,000 square feet of space and a secure entrance, says the district’s Michael Stangel, director of Facilities Planning & Maintenance.

062That was just the start, as Stangel, project architect Melanie Parma of Somerville Architects and Engineers, and Stu Sirjord of Nexus Solutions pointed out during a 2014 visit to the school. Other changes included carving out parking and playground facilities on the tight urban site, installing energy-efficient building systems — as per an effort implemented across the district — modifying some plumbing and replacing windows, and equipping the school with interactive, mobile and other teaching and learning technologies that include distance learning equipment.

084“We are clustered by academic need rather than grade level, so it’s
necessary for use to be flexible with our space,” says Van Dyke, “Everybody floats to where they need to go.”

The response: flexible and moveable technology and furniture — different ages need furnishings with adjustable heights and whiteboard paint areas high and low enough for all — and plenty of space for collaboration. One of the highlights: a Thinking Studio, which Van Dyke described as a “reinvented library” and a space for collaborative learning.

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