Updated, 3 p.m.: Information added, headline adjusted.
NORWALK, Conn. — The City has settled upon an architect to design a new Norwalk High School. And it’s possible the school will be built on the athletic fields.
Kaestle Boos Associates Inc. is the winning bidder for the work, a potential $6 million contract to be voted on by the full Council next Tuesday. As part of the process, one of the competing firms said much money could be saved if the school were built on the football fields, Jim Giuliano, the city’s project manager for new school construction, and Building and Facilities Manager Alan Lo said Wednesday, seeking the ability to investigate the option.
Both stressed that this is preliminary and expressed skepticism that the idea will withstand scrutiny.
“We don’t want to leave any stone unturned. We started on this project by saying, ‘well, we don’t want to touch (the football fields),’ but at the same time is that option,” Lo said.
The Norwalk High School project was approved by the State for 80% reimbursement, but at a lower cost than City officials expected initially. That’s $189 million rather than the $225 million the original concepts were based on.
When the move to build a new school was announced, Konstantinos (Kosta) Diamantis, Director of the Connecticut Office of School Construction Grants & Review, said it would be built on the site of the existing school, in phases. Mayor Harry Rilling agreed.
Potential architects were asked to provide a fee for the design, then a cost to design a new pool as an optional add-on, Giuliano said Wednesday. Kaestle Boos came in well below its competitors.
- Kaestle Boos Associates, Inc., $5.7 million architectural fee, $250,000 for a pool
- TSKP STUDIO, LLC/Tecton, $7.4 million architectural fee, $470,000 for a pool
- The S/L/A/M Collaborative, Inc., $7.6 million, $400,000 for a pool
Kaestle Boos has recently worked on Minuteman Regional Vocational Technical High School and Attleboro High School in Massachusetts, Naugatuck High School and Moser School here in Connecticut and Barrington Middle School in Rhode Island, the firm states, adding that the new schools “were constructed on the site of the existing facility while the schools were occupied and active.”
The City never sought an estimate based on using the athletic fields as the site for the new school but when the potential savings were presented, “we said let’s add an alternate for building on the athletic field, just to see how it shakes out,” Giuliano said to the Council Land Use and Building Management Committee.
That idea would put the athletic fields out of commission for three years, he said.
On the other hand, it’s important “for us is maintain our sanity,” Lo said. “Phased demolition of that existing building is going to be painful to do because … it’s a cast-in-place building. And you have to cut the building up and you got to deal with existing utility, heating systems and everything else. You got to build a new and then you actually push the building right along the street’s frontage.”
He said, “Also, by building a separate building, we don’t interfere with the student’s education for three years, versus they’re moving around every year, from here to there.”
Giuliano said he suspects the firm didn’t consider the plan to use the school’s science wing, saving 16,700 square feet of construction.
Council member Barbara Smyth (D-At Large) was on the selection committee. All along, everyone has talked about the science wing, which was built in the mid-2000s, and adding onto the building, assuming the school wouldn’t be built along County Street, she said. “But one of the firms just came to us with this idea of building a whole new school back on those athletic fields, and it just piqued everyone’s interest.”