Thursday, June 21, 2007

Plan to Save Rudolph Buildings

The following article was printed in the Sarasota Herald Tribune:

Article published Jun 20, 2007

What: The Riverview Committee is soliciting design ideas to restore the famed Paul Rudolph buildings at Riverview High and create a unique parking deck for the campus. If no proposal is found by March 2008, the School Board will tear down the buildings.

When: The design competition should begin this summer. The final idea should be selected by November.

Information: Contact Les Fishman at 365-4723, or e-mail James Bowen at

Riverview group seeks champion to save buildings

SARASOTA COUNTY -- What was once a grassroots effort to save the historic buildings at Riverview High is now an organized movement, looking for a partner with design ideas and funding before the School Board's demolition deadline.

The citizens group Save Riverview Committee recently merged with the Sarasota Architectural Foundation, a nonprofit organization, to form the Riverview Committee.

The 12-member committee will soon host an international competition to find a new use for Riverview High's courtyard buildings, designed by famed architect Paul Rudolph. They are also seeking a design idea for a unique parking solution -- a parking garage with ball fields on top -- that would provide the space for the Rudolph buildings to remain on the campus.

The group hopes to have a winning proposal by November in order to present to the School Board by its March 2008 deadline. If no solution is found, the buildings will be demolished, the School Board has said."It isn't just a design problem; it's a problem of funding as well," said Greg Hall, an Sarasota architect and committee member. "It's a pretty daunting task, but we are optimistic."

The Sarasota County School Board in March agreed to give the group one year to come up with a design plan and the funding, about $20 million, before demolishing the Rudolph buildings as planned to make way for the new school's parking lot.

The resolution came after outcry over the demolition and a three-day workshop, hosted by the National Historic Trust, in which architects, school officials and concerned citizens brainstormed ways to save the buildings without hindering the construction of the new school.Instead of razing the buildings for a parking lot, the group came up with the space saving idea of a parking deck with fields on top so the buildings could remain. And although the group decided the Rudolph buildings could not be part of the new school, they could be renovated for an alternative use, preferably a university that complements the high school.

The committee plans to announce more details about its competition at the end of this month. It will be requesting that firms or developer teams that are interested submit their qualifications. Based on those, by mid-September the committee will select five finalists that will then have three months to submit proposals. Then a jury committee, with public input, will make a final selection that will be presented to the School Board in the spring.At this point, committee members say, the possibilities for the Rudolph buildings are endless.

"It's wide open," said James Bowen, a Sarasota architect who is chairing the Riverview committee. "It could be an organization, a corporation, a university, a building collector. It could be anyone if the idea is right and they are capable.

"Yet as the group is moving forward with its plan, so is the School Board. It recently finalized legal agreements with Sarasota County government, and is moving forward with a land swap with the county, the final steps before construction will begin.

On Tuesday, the School Board also approved the plans for Riverview High's 1,000-seat auditorium and 40,000-square-foot gymnasium. Construction is expected to begin next month on the $19 million structures. The remaining plans for Riverview should be finished by this fall.At roughly $134 million, the Riverview High School project is one of the most expensive in school district history. The School Board has said the district will not pay to revitalize the Rudolph buildings. Nor can the preservation slow down the project, interfere with instruction or diminish student safety.

"They are welcome to pursue any avenue to save the buildings, but the board has nothing to do with it," board member Kathy Kleinlein said.


knitakitty said...

I am a Riverview Alumni. I don't understand why you all are trying to save these buildings. I graduated just two years ago, and it was disgusting. Instead of thinking good the building once was, you should have been there the morning asbestos and rust flooded the upstairs hallway above the outdoor lunch area. Students had to avoid breathing in the noxious fumes for weeks, and eat in the pavilion nearby. And maybe you should sit in the Food Preperation cloass, while roaches scurry across the floor. And when it rains, forget about staying dry, because some of the most important pathways aren't covered, and it inevitably always rains duing luch, where there is not enough seating for all the students; no matter how many lunch periods they have.
The buildings you are trying to save aren't going to be used by the people trying to save them. The students who attend really suffer in those halls. The design was great for a high school with the original class size, but with students crammed into every possible room availble, academia becomes secondary to finding a desk. Whatsmore, you say that the architecture is being sacrificed for a parking lot. This is simply rediculous.
The parking lot has been made in the place of the softball field. And, if you care so much about great architecture, then why are you trying to make students stay in an old and run down piece of architecture that doesn;t fit their needs? Isn't the point of architecture to fufill the needs of the persons who occupy them? I just can't understand what you all are fighting for. If its for the memories, believe me, an old building you pass by on the way to work is not what is keeping your memories alive.

Anonymous said...

Being a student at Riverview High School, I know first hand what it's like to be in classrooms infested with bugs and rats. I also know what it's like to have to squeeze onto an overpacked bus because we have limited parking. No one but seniors are able to park at Riverview, unless you plan to park on someone's lawn for a monthly fee, which, might I add, is illegal. I am unable to have an after school job, since first I must be taken home on the bus and arrive fourty-five minutes after school is over. Many students don't get home until after four. The school is falling apart right in front of us. It would take an excessive amount of time and money to repair a building that looks like a prison. That money should go to our education, not the appearence of our building.

Anonymous said...

In a perfect world it would be wonderful if old buildings such as Riverview high could be restored.
Unfortunately Riverview high is trying to fit a campus in a 60 acre site that should really be about 100 acres to provide all the amenities a high school should provide. I would have much preferred that Riverview had been relocated to a larger site and perhaps some of historic buildings could have been saved. There is not enough available space to save these buildings without reducing the functionality of the campus.