Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Carl Abbott Speaks About Riverview and the Community

Statement from Carl Abbott FAIA on Riverview High School designed by Paul Rudolph
Both of my sons received excellent educations within the Sarasota public school system and, as a result, they were able to receive great college scholarships. I want my three grandchildren, who live here, to have excellent educations. The education of our children is our future.

Riverview High School, designed by Paul Rudolph in 1958, is an important part of Sarasota’s built history and a significant part of the Architectural Legacy of America. Presently, the original Riverview Complex is in a very poor condition, (the maintenance conditions are extreme – even the stair rails leave rust on your hands – this is a maintenance issue and has nothing to do with the construction status of the building). However, the original Rudolph buildings are structurally sound and can be restored to meet current school standards at a cost less than that of new construction.

With Historic Designation, the buildings are not required to meet all current codes and they can be rehabilitated using State Funds, as was done with our local Federal Building, Municipal Auditorium, Sarasota County Courthouse and the Ringling Mansion Ca’ d’Zan.

In September 2004, a Memorandum to Sarasota County School Board Superintendent Dr. Norris, from BMK Architects overviewing their extensive 2002 Long-Range Facilities Review on Riverview High School stated “plan on replacing all existing buildings on campus . . . with the exception of the original Rudolph buildings, which should be rehabilitated”. Despite this recommendation, the School Board has recently advocated demolition of the original Riverview High School to make way for a parking lot for a new school complex.

Riverview High School is not “too far along” to change the present direction towards demolition. For many years there has been discussion of changes on the Riverview Campus – - rehabilitation of all existing buildings, exchange of the site, a total new site east of town, etc. This discussion of demolition of the original Riverview Campus was brought to the attention of the public recently (Herald-Tribune article in February 2006). At present, the first phase of architectural documents (Schematic Design Phase) is ready for presentation to the School Board. Dr. Norris has stated that this presentation has been held until further dialogue between the School Board and the Community has taken place.

An informed group of concerned citizens (educators, architects, planners, architectural historians and community leaders) is recommending that the School Board re-assess the situation and preserve this significant landmark. The concerns of our committee are: (a) Students, ( b) Costs / Time, (c) History (both local and international). Our school board has diligently worked in the past to save other significant buildings, including the original Sarasota High School - - let’s continue this responsible stewardship. The Florida Trust for Historic Preservation has cited the Riverview Complex as one of 11 most endangered buildings in Florida and eligible for a listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Sarasota County is acclaimed for its cultural assets, this important work of architecture can serve as a focus of great civic pride.

For over 40 years I have been a part of the Sarasota community, and do appreciate the fact that we are a unique and very special place - “the Cultural Center of Florida”. I know that the original Riverview High School buildings can be rehabilitated so that our students can have the best of 21st century technology in a building that both reflects our history and in a school that they deserve. I am proud to be a part of this grass-roots effort to preserve Riverview High School, which is an important part of Sarasota’s built history and a significant part of the Architectural Legacy of America.

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