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The new Lower School building, which will replace Perkins
Riverdale is poised to begin a historic construction project that will transform the Lower School campus and add new facilities to the Upper School campus, creating additional space for athletics, community events, and innovative classes.
The Bronx Community Board No. 8 unanimously approved the project at a meeting last week. It now awaits final review from the New York City Planning Department.
The project is in three parts:
- Beginning in June, the Perkins Building on the Lower School campus will be demolished and construction will begin on a new 23,000-square-foot building for grades three through five.
- Also in June, construction will begin on a new 13,000-square-foot aquatics center to be built on a wooded area behind Mow and Lindenbaum on the eastern side of the Upper School campus, replacing the school’s outmoded, 55-year-old pool.
- In the next phase, the school’s current athletics facilities will be renovated, creating a second gymnasium/auditorium for athletics and community events and a multi-use conference space.
The Lower School building and aquatics center will be ready for the 2016-2017 school year; the renovation project is expected to begin in the fall of 2016 and end in early 2017.
While construction on the Upper School campus is not expected to disrupt classes next year, construction on the Lower School campus will require the use of temporary structures. An 11-unit learning complex will be set up on the Lower School field for third, fourth, and fifth grades as well as science and “maker” classes.
Head of School Dominic A.A. Randolph said both projects have been designed around the needs of the students and the desire to sustain and protect the natural features of the campuses.
Designed by Architecture Research Office (ARO), the new Lower School building will visually connect two existing historic buildings, and, importantly, integrate the PK-5 program. In addition to nine classrooms for third, fourth and fifth graders, the two-story building will have a multi-purpose theater, a student center with full kitchen and cafeteria areas, administrative offices, and other flexible meeting and learning spaces. The layout will accommodate larger groups and encourage a more cohesive Lower School.
Randolph said the school would make the temporary spaces “as rich and fulfilling as being in a normal classroom building.” The school is working with the David Rockwell Group, known for architecture, set design, and innovative playground equipment – including the Imagination Playground blocks used at the Lower School – and Open, a design firm known for interior design and creative signage, on the design of the temporary classrooms. Randolph said students and teachers will prototype furniture and other features for the new building, giving them a voice in the design process.
On the Upper School campus, the new aquatics center will contain a state-of-the-art, six-lane, 25-yard competition swimming pool with boys’ & girls’ locker rooms and administrative space. Designed by PBDW Architects, the single-floor building will be built on the natural contours of the property and preserve the topography.
The new aquatics center will be built behind Mow and Lindenbaum.
The existing athletic facility, including the former pool, will be renovated to add a second gymnasium/auditorium for sports and other activities, enabling the Upper School to hold community-wide events. Randolph said that many alumni speak fondly of their all-school daily meetings, and the new space will allow the Upper School to convene for assemblies and other events.
Randolph said the Community Board commended the school for developing a comprehensive facilities plan for both campuses, and for preserving natural features and resources (such as trees, rock outcroppings, and topography) as required by local zoning rules.
“People felt there was an attention paid to the Special Natural Area District and to the neighborhood,” Randolph said. “The neighbors talked enthusiastically about how the school had communicated about the building and the planning process.”
David Patnaude, the director of plant and sustainability, said the school was working toward USGBC-LEED Certification of Silver for both new structures, a designation that recognizes efforts to use natural resources efficiently and to minimize impact on the ecosystem.
Both buildings are being constructed on sites where buildings had stood in the past, so the school’s open spaces will not be diminished.
In 2000, Beyer, Blinder, Belle completed an extensive facilities master plan for the Hill Campus that resulted in the founding of the Middle School and redesign of Hackett Hall, the construction of the John R. Johnson student center, and the relocation of the historic Vinik Hall to the other side of the campus.
The 2000 master plan, which was approved by the Community Board, included a proposal for a building on the site of the new swimming pool. At the time, the Community Board agreed in principle to a new building on that site because a Manhattan College building had once stood there.
In 2009, Riverdale hired Cooper, Robertson and Partners to develop a facilities plan for the Lower School that examined how to adapt the buildings and space for a Lower School program. The plans for the Perkins building grew out of that work.
The launch of the $100-million R+ capital campaign gave the school funds to proceed with the project.
Randolph said that the Massachusetts-based firm of Shawmut Design and Construction had been selected to build both buildings because of their experience working with universities such as Brown, Tufts, MIT, and Yale that are located in dense, residential settings. The owner’s representative is Zubatkin Owner Representation.
Randolph said the Community Board decision was gratifying because the school is seen as “good stewards of the buildings, the programs, and the natural areas that we live in.”
“This is an exciting time for Riverdale,” Randolph said. “These projects are going to enable us to be more creative about the kinds of programs that the school can offer.”