6 firms hope to design Portland's renovated Lyseth school

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PORTLAND — Six firms are interested in designing the $15.7 million renovation of Lyseth Elementary School.

The School Board this week scheduled a workshop to get an update on the selection process.

The goal of the workshop, according to Superintendent of Schools Xavier Botana, is to bring the board up to speed on who responded to a request for proposals and what the next steps are, including interviewing finalists and agreeing to a contract with the winner.

Under the Buildings for Our Future study, the proposed cost for design and engineering services on the Lyseth project is projected to be about $983,000.

The firms that responded by the June 12 deadline were WBRC Architects-Engineers, Lavallee Brensinger Architects, PDT Architects, Harriman, and Scott Simons Architects, all of Portland, and Oak Point Associates of Biddeford.

All also have experience designing and building schools throughout Maine and New England and several have experience with the Portland School Department, including Oak Point, which designed the new Amanda C. Rowe School now under construction on Orono Road.

According to a schedule that Botana provided to the board prior to Tuesday’s meeting, the hope is for a subcommittee of the Advisory Building Committee to meet and select firms for interviews no later than Wednesday.

The interviews would begin July 9, with the goal of making a final selection no later than July 30. The intent would then be for the planning and design process to take place over the early fall, with construction beginning no later than February 2019.

Lyseth is thought to be in the best condition of the four elementary schools scheduled for upgrades under a $64 million bond approved by voters last November. That’s partly why School Department staff recommended the multi-year, multi-school process start with the Auburn Street building.

In late April, Botana told the School Board it’s important that “we get off the ground with a project that is successful,” and because Lyseth is the easiest and most straightforward of the construction projects, it would help lay a strong foundation for the remainder of the work to follow.

The other three elementary schools scheduled for significant renovations under the bond are Longfellow, Presumpscot and Reiche.

Members of the subcommittee chosen to select the design firms to interview are residents Mathew Winch, Jay Norris and Emily Figdor, along with school district facilities staff Steven Stilphen and Douglas Sherwood, and Lyseth Principal Lenore Williams.

In information provided to the School Board, Botana said the selection process for the interested architecture firms will be weighed toward the experience, knowledge and key personnel on each team.

The firms’ general approach to the project, as well as an outline of their overall vision for elementary school construction, are also part of the selection criteria, he said.

Each application also required the firms to provide a statement of their understanding of the project, a description of the general approach and methods they would use to accomplish the project and a statement of their other commitments.

All the responding firms said they were excited about the potential for the Lyseth School redo and said they would focus on creating flexible, student-centered learning spaces that accommodate current educational goals.

“We understand that the Portland community takes great pride in its schools and in the education it provides its students,” Michael Johanning, a principal at WBRC Architects-Engineers said in his proposal.

Alan Kuniholm, the practice leader at PDT Architects, said, “We understand that each school is unique both architecturally and for the role it will play within its (own specific) neighborhood.”

In his proposal, Scott Simons acknowledged that “a school is many different things to many different people. It is a place of learning, a place to work (and) a community center.”

The scope of work for the Lyseth project includes adding space for the school’s gifted and talented, English language learner, speech, library, art and music programs, along with a new gym, cafeteria, and stage.

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

Six architectural firms have responded to a request for proposals to substantially renovate and updgrade Portland’s Lyseth Elementary School. The School Department hopes to choose a design team no later than the end of July.

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