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.
Elsewhere, 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.
That 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.
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.