Sunday, September 9, 2007

Save Wilbur Wright School ...meeting this Monday

Tip of the hat to Joe Lacey for giving me a blog topic. He had posted about Wilbur Wright School under that Century Bar entry, with this pertinent bit of info:

"Monday night the Dayton Board of Education is meeting with neighbors, alumni, and others concerned about the fate of the Wilbur Wright building. The original building and auditorium were built in 1926. The board had originally planned to demolish these structures with little or no input from the neighborhood but are now planning a meeting to explain their decision. If we can get enough people to this meeting, I think that we can get the board to reconsider.

"The board's original decision to demolish was made under the false notion that building renovations must cost less than two thirds of the cost of building new, a ridiculous hurdle for any building, or the state would not allow the renovation.

"These and other issues will be brought to light

This is Wilbur Wright School, on Huffman Avenue in East Dayton. It is set back from the street on landscaped lawn:

The building is rather monumental close-up, and long. The central block, which I think is or was the gym, breaks the facade
The urban context for this building has been lost somewhat as across the street was the Central Theological Seminary, which had its own landscaped grounds. Wilbur Wright and the Central Theological site are both nearly at the top of Huffman Hill, and would have created sort of a landmark area on Huffman, visually seperating the hilltop neighborhoods from areas further down Huffman. Central Theological was replaced by an apartment complex probably in the very late 1930s or 1940s, though one seminary building remains, but hidden by the apartments. Only Wilbur Wright remains, for now.
The gym is fairly impressive and would have been even more so when those three two story high windows were still in place. Lots of nice small details on this building, including the decorative medallions and the acroteria on the top coping. The detailing of this facade is a good demonstration of using reveals, shadowlines, and step backs to visually activate what would be a flat, banal surface (note especially the corner treatement and inset pilasters). And the doors are certainly emphasised, with the flanking one story vestibule blocks.

So much to say here. Just a quick comment on replacement vs renovation.

I know that there is such a % of replacement cost policy for military facilities, but that policy is flexible, and deals more with what appropriation the funding will come from...the operations vs capital budget...and that it is possible to fund a costly renovation from the capital budget.

So what it the policy for deciding school renovations vs replacement, and is this a state or DPS policy? And how is the school replacement cost arrived at?

And can one really replace a building with this level of detail? Now one is entering the realm of aesthetics, which is something there is never money for.

There are other, deeper issues around this, but I don't want to post on them yet.


Joe Lacey said...

The front is an auditorium, not a gymnasium.

DPS does rely on state policy if they want the 60% cofunding offered by the state. The state had a two thirds policy when the building program first started around 2001 but that has been effectively revised. The state will cofund a project as long as renovation will not exceed new construction.

Anonymous said...

Where exactly is the meeting to take place? In the auditorium or in a classroom?

Joe Lacey said...

The meeting will be in the auditorium. It's a good size auditorium so hopefully we'll have lots of people show.

Anonymous said...

Joe, how did the meeting go? I wasn't able to make it, but WDTN's coverage didn't say much. Were any minds changed?

Joe Lacey said...

We went through an hour long presentation from a couple of Ohio School Facilities Commission people about how thorough their process was that led to the decision to demolish Wilbur Wright. Then an hour of pleas to save the building from the 55 or so neighbors and alumni. Then, in the question and answer period, it became apparent that the Ohio School Facilities Commission could have allowed (cofunded) the renovation had the district ever requested it. Through much of the first two hours my colleagues on the board sat silent. Then Gail Littlejohn said that the board would reconsider if we could show that a majority of the neighborhood favored renovation. I questioned how we were to show a majority (other than the fact that all the neighborhood people who came to the meeting wanted renovation) and Gail said she wasn't sure and that it may require a consultant. Lee Massoud seemed to agree with Gail. Mario didn't disagree with Gail on finding a majority but insisted on defending the district's decision to demolish to the very end. The other two board members remained silent. So we're left with finding a way to prove to the board that a majority of neighbors want renovation. They may be simply setting a nice high hurdle to watch us stumble on or they may be stalling until they safely get past this November's election when four of them are on the ballot.

Jefferey said...

Joe, If the Save Wilbur Wright people are organized and have enough time, perhaps it could be possible to do a door-to-door poll, similar to a precinct canvas. It would be labor intensive but one could get a fair sample of opinion that way.

The counter to such a survey would be to say it was biased due to the people conducting it.

If the school board is serious about a consultant, use WSUs Center for Urban & Public Affairs, as they know how to do community surveys.

Joe Lacey said...

Requesting that we somehow demonstrate a majority is laying the burden of proof with those who want to renovate. I'm not ready to accept that burden especially when the district has not shown that anyone from the neighborhood around Wilbur Wright School was involved in the decision to demolish. Since May, I've spent several days walking door to door in the neighborhood and I haven't met anyone who was involved in that decision yet. We've demonstrated and documented with meetings and petitions community support for renovation. It's time for the district to show evidence for support for demolition and new construction.

Also the district can't afford to pay for a proper poll and polls can be easily skewed with the wording. Example: Do you want a new school or do you want to keep the old school?

Anonymous said...

Wilbur Wright has a long steeped history in Dayton and would be a great loss for the community. It is my hope that the issue is resolved and teh appropriate renovations completed.