Portland Historic Preservation Board hears proposed $12M expansion of Waynflete School

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PORTLAND — Plans for $12 million worth of upgrades at Waynflete School moved uneventfully through the Historic Preservation Board on Wednesday night.

The plans call for demolishing and replacing the school gymnasium, and building a new Lower School complex. The Lower School houses students in early childhood through fifth grade.

Historic Preservation Manager Deb Andrews said the proposal still has to go before the Planning Board twice, and through a Historic Preservation Board public hearing on April 20.

Founded in 1898 and located in the city’s West End at 360 Spring St., the private college preparatory school sits on about three acres and consists of 11 buildings.

Anne Hagstrom, the school’s director of finance and operations, said renovating the Lower School has been a priority for more than a decade. In addition to being an aging facility, she said the building was not designed to house the youngest students.

Hagstrom said renovating Lower School is a two-part project.

The first includes renovations to Founders Hall, on the interior of the campus, where in addition to interior modifications, the roof will be completely replaced; exterior windows and doors will be replaced; and  steps on the playground side of the building will be installed.

Additionally, a library resource center will be established on the first floor of Founders Hall (Lower School students now use the high school library).

The second part involves the Hewes Wing, which Hagstrom said was built in the 1960s as a science wing for the high school, also known as the Upper School. It was later converted into space for the Lower School.

“The facility is aging,” Hagstrom said, adding the Hewes Wing needs “considerable work.”

Hewes faces Danforth Street; the Hewes Wing and a connector to Founders Hall will be removed.

Hagstrom said the goal is to design a building that functions best as a Lower School. The new structure will have more classroom space, more light, and will be built to “passive house standards,” a set of energy-efficiency requirements that result in buildings using less energy for heating and cooling.

The project will double the size of the Lower School, though Hagstrom said not every room will double in size. All told, the building will go from roughly 14,000 square feet to 28,000 square feet, she said.

“It’s a space that’s really designed for our youngest students,” she said.

The gym, which was built in the 1970s and faces Fletcher Street, is also aging, Hagstrom said. It will go from nearly 9,300 square feet to roughly 13,600 square feet.

Hagstrom said the Lower School renovations are estimated to cost a little more than $8 million, and the estimates for the gym are around $4 million. She said construction on both projects will tentatively begin in May or June 2017, with the hope of completion by the start of school in 2018.

According to a memo from Andrews, the project first came before the board last November. Since then, the design has been refined based on board feedback, and input from the school’s faculty and staff.

“That was the introduction to it because it’s a fairly comprehensive project,” Andrews said Monday.

She said the board spent most of its discussion Wednesday night on the changes to the gym, because there were concerns the larger footprint would move the building closer to Fletcher Street.

“The current gym is absolutely inconsistent with the character of the neighborhood,” Andrews said. “The new gym promises to be much of an asset to the neighborhood.”

Enrollment at Waynflete is more than 560. Depending on the grade, tuition ranges from about $24,000 to more than $29,000 a year.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Updated Thursday, March 17, 1:50 p.m.

A rendering of the proposed expansion at Waynflete School in Portland’s West End.

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.