Jury to Present Adaptive-Reuse Plans for Riverview High School

November 19, 2007

By David Sokol

Riverview High School, the masterful yet neglected Paul Rudolph–designed building that is threatened with demolition, has taken another step toward possible resurrection. On Saturday, a jury including internationally renowned architects Toshiko Mori, Charles Gwathmey, FAIA, and Alex Krieger, FAIA, met in the school’s hometown of Sarasota, Florida, to consider five proposals for redeveloping the building. Tomorrow, the jury will present those proposals to the Sarasota School Board, which could select a winner by next March.

When, in February 2006, the Sarasota School Board first announced that Riverview was obsolete for its needs, the building’s demolition seemed all but certain: The 50-year-old high school was too small for its student body and their technology needs, and over the years, the building had been obscured by the addition of portables and mechanical improvments. The school board planned to construct a parking lot on the site.

Although a new school building is being erected, the Tuesday presentation is the most recent in a series of reversals of the board’s position regarding the original. In March, a National Trust for Historic Preservation charrette demonstrated that the Rudolph design could be saved and rehabilitated without impeding construction of the new school; moreover, it suggested that the relatively small 42-acre Riverview campus could accommodate both buildings by relocating athletic fields to the rooftop of a new parking deck. The school board responded shortly thereafter, resolving that it would consider proposals to adapt the Rudolph building for a new use. That resolution, however, stated that the project must be compatible with the new Riverview High School, and that its redevelopment and operation costs must not place any additional burden on the school district. The price tag: approximately $30 million.

Since then, the Sarasota Architectural Foundation released a RFQ to architect-developer teams interested in conceiving a solution. In September, a shorlist was then invited to respond to an RFP. It includes: developer Mark S. Kauffman with local architect The ADP Group; Mack Scogin Merrill Elam with John McAslan + Partners; RMJM Hillier, Diane Lewis Architect, Beckelman + Capalino, and Seibert Architects; design and development firm The Folsom Group and TOTeMs Architecture; Batson-Cook Construction and Taylor Architecture.

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Finalists’ proposals for Rudolph’s Riverview, which are equally focused on funding and architectural design, reimagine the building as a music center and a middle school feeder, among others. Jurors will present these plans to the school board by rank. The school board can select from any of the five schemes, although there is the chance that the board would deem all plans unfit, instead moving forward with demolition. 

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