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City gets first look at high school remodel

Feedback to be considered

Feb. 20, 2013

Franklin - The Common Council on Tuesday gave Franklin High School officials plenty to think about during a concept review of a $33 million plan to expand and renovate the facility.

The review, meant to be an advisory step prior to a final review by the city's Plan Commission, unearthed a wide variety of questions and concerns regarding safety, building materials, use of space, water retention and neighborhood impact.

The construction project was approved in a Nov. 6 referendum. The concept could be presented to the Plan Commission as early as March 7.

Access and more

Safety concerns centered on the plan to build an auditorium as part of a performing arts center at the southwest corner of the building near an expanded front entrance.

Alderman Steve Olson questioned why there were not more doorways leading into and out of the 850-seat auditorium. That same issue was raised by Mayor Tom Taylor, noting that there is a heightened sensitivity regarding access for the public and emergency personnel in the wake of several school campus shootings in recent years.

Olson also questioned the size of the auditorium as a theater, wondering if large equipment and materials could be effectively stored and maneuvered in the space.

While several council members asked about the propriety of a plan for stormwater retention under terraced parking, Alderwoman Kristen Wilhelm questioned why more pedestrian walkways were not drawn into the west side of the plan.

Alderman Ken Skowronski asked why there were no plans to expand vocational education space since trade education, he said, is a community need.

Taylor told presenter Robert Vajgrt of Eppstein Uhen Architects that he hoped the council's questions and concerns would help the process as it proceeds to city planners.

Next-step advice

"I would think that the members of the Plan Commission will be very interested in certain details," Taylor said. "They will want to know about the look of the expansion and how attractive it will be and what materials will be used and how much of it will be brick. They will want to know how the plans may affect surrounding neighbors. They will want to know something about the landscaping and how that will add to the property and how it will help the property be separated from the residences."

Vajgrt laid out a number of plan details for the 285,000-square-foot facility situated on 77 acres.

The most notable include new structures such as a front entrance to enhance security, a two-story addition of open-concept academic space, the performing arts center meant to be a communitywide resource with expanded music, theater and choir areas, new and expanded parking designed to provide better separation of bus and parent drop-off and pick-up areas. The parking expansion and improvement also will require moving athletic fields from the south side to the north side of the campus.

Positive process

After the review, Superintendent Steve Patz said he thought the meeting was positive.

"There were good questions," Patz said. "We want to abide by the aldermen's sensibilities. We will work on some of these issues so that we can go to the Plan Commission with those details worked out.

"This has been a process from the beginning when we held public meetings before the referendum. We are looking forward to answering any questions."

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