Restoring the Past Builds Value
Terry White, Partner and Tom Wilson, Associate Partner
St. Michael Catholic School is a beautifully restored elementary school in Belleville with a large new addition. Initially one of the options considered by the community was to demolish the building to build a new one, but we saw that portions of the school had an important history for the community. We felt that we could solve the systems and capacity challenge with a restoration plan. The project needed to solve two issues: there was a capacity problem; and the building’s systems required a complete overhaul. We solved the challenges with a restoration that added irreplaceable value springing from using the original building. The juxtaposition of the old school against the new 2011 addition creates a dynamic tension that elevates the building to a very special place.
“The fact that we were were able to take an old building and renew it to meet the 21st century needs of our students has been the biggest success.” – Bryan Davies, Capital Projects Manager
The client School Board covers a large geographic area with many competing demands. By choosing to restore the heritage building, it demonstrated its commitment to the Belleville community. It gained more space than it would have in a new construction, where funding is linked to a program template; for example, the existing chapel would be hard to justify in a new building. Space that would normally not be part of a new build was turned into useful space; for example, the basement space has windows, allowing a daycare agency which runs a before and after school program to be relocated there. Other parts of the basement were repurposed into a drama room and storage.
In these restoration projects, the process of rediscovery of the building is exciting. These buildings can live on and be a real gift to the community. We took great pride and enjoyment in discovering, restoring and repurposing original features of the school, like the chalk boards, railings, and wood detail in the baseboards and floors.