The final site plan for construction of a new high school at its current location was approved by the Urbana Planning Commission Monday as demolition of the existing facility is underway at 500 Washington Ave.
Scheduled to be completed in early 2018, the new 88,269-square-foot Urbana High School, designed to serve a capacity of 480 students, will be constructed to the east of the current high school and junior high.
“The (new) building will sit in what is right now kind of the open practice field and part of the East Lawn (Avenue) parking lot,” said Michael Myers, project manager for Fanning Howey Associates, the firm hired by the school district to handle the project’s architectural work.
The all-brick building will stretch from the north to south end of the property and face the west (football stadium).
“The brick that is on the outside of the building actually features a two-tone color selection,” Myers said. “One of the colors is a very close match to the ‘Castle,’ and then there is another brick that is a little darker (grayish).”
As for the layout of the facility, the north end (toward Boyce Street) will feature a two-story academic wing, while the south end (toward Washington Avenue) will contain a 34-foot high gymnasium (slightly higher than the academic wing) along with the dining commons, kitchen and mechanical area.
The middle section of the high school will contain the main entrance and administration area, Myers said.
To address concerns of nearby residents, Myers added, the east side of the facility is designed to keep students from peering into neighboring back yards.
“There are not a lot of windows looking out into residential properties,” he said.
While demolition work is underway on the east building of the high school to allow for construction work to begin, Myers reiterated to the Planning Commission that several current structures will remain, including the site’s most iconic building.
“We are saving the ‘Castle’ building so that will be a separate, free-standing building,” he said. “We are saving the existing gymnasium/auditorium building, which will now be a separate, free-standing building.”
As for what the “Castle” will be used for in the future, Superintendent Charles Thiel said that remains “undefined.”
“Basically, the one thing we know right now is students will walk out the ‘Castle’ doors to go down the hill for graduation,” he said.
It’s intended the gymnasium/auditorium will continue to be the district’s primary auditorium, and the gymnasium itself will serve as a secondary gym.
Along with the east building, the current high school academic wing and the junior high will be torn down and replaced with parking lots, the site plan details.
According to the final site plan, the two primary access points to the facility will continue to be Washington Avenue and Carson Street.
Myers said the main entry into the site will be the east drive from Washington Avenue that runs behind the gymnasium/auditorium. The one-way, two-lane drive is intended to be used primarily by parents dropping off students and by staff. The drive will wrap around the “Castle” to another one-way, two-lane drive located in front of the current high school, which will allow for either a right- or left-hand turn onto Washington Avenue.
As for the Carson Street entry, Myers added, the district’s intention is for this entrance to be used for buses entering and exiting the site.
The site will also be accessible from the East Lawn Avenue parking lot located on the northeast corner of the property.
Rezoning efforts moving forward on city’s east side
An application seeking to rezone approximately 11 acres east of Walmart at the northwest corner of the U.S. Route 36 East and North Dugan Road intersection was approved by the Planning Commission and will now make its way to City Council as an ordinance scheduled for a first reading on Sept. 6.
Submitted by Lewis Center-based Hplex Solutions Inc. on behalf of Urbana MOB LLC, the application seeks to rezone the land – known as Subarea E of the Urbana Commons Planned Unit Development (PUD) – from residential/open space to office/medical campus.
Also put to a vote was another application submitted by Hplex Solutions. This particular request seeks to create a zoning text for the land in question since no official text was adopted for Subarea E when the Urbana Commons PUD (Planned Unit Development) Final Development Plan was approved by council, Zoning Officer Adam Moore said.
As it did with the request for rezoning of the land, the Planning Commission approved the application to update the PUD text to reflect the potential rezoning. City Council will weigh in on the matter in a separate ordinance to be introduced on Sept. 6.
While no official announcement has been made as to what may occupy Subarea E pending council’s approval on the rezoning applications, Marysville-based Memorial Health announced recently its intentions to build a 30,000-square-foot, $10.3-million medical office in Urbana. The exact location of the facility has yet to be announced by the independent, nonprofit healthcare organization.
Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-652-1331 (ext. 1774) or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.