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Feasibility Study: Exploring Every Option

As part of the City’s grant submission to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), the City of Somerville has worked with PMA Consultants and Symmes Maini & McKee Associations (SMMA) to research the pros and cons of every building location and construction type possible. We put our own assumptions and preferences aside and set out to find the best option by testing the ground at each site, looking at data, gathering feedback from residents, and learning from other communities. This is all part of the two-part feasibility study that the City submitted to the MSBA.
Possible Somerville High School locations

Step One: Preliminary Design Program (PDP)

To craft the Preliminary Design Program (PDP), the City worked closely with its contracted planners, architects, and project managers to come up with the best building alternatives to submit to the MSBA.

These options include:
  • Base repair
  • Full renovation
  • Addition/renovation
  • New construction at the existing site
  • New construction at an alternative site

On Tuesday, February 10, 2016, the Somerville High School Building Committee (SBC) voted to send the Preliminary Design Program to the MSBA. Next, the SBC will work with a team of Architects and Owner’s Project Managers to solicit feedback from the Somerville community on viable proposals, and explore all potential funding options before selecting a preferred option for the final submission in June.

Alternatives Presented in the PDP

Below is a listing of the alternatives/options that were presented in the PDP. At this point, the options being presented are strictly those that are considered to be feasible by the standards of the MSBA. Not all of the options provided below would necessarily fit with the educational and economic goals of the City, but it is important to the MSBA grant process that we fully explore and present all options that would fit the MSBA’s criteria before selecting our own preferred plan.
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Alternative 4b – Addition / Renovation
Build HS to East Site

Enclosed / Open Central Circulation and Activity Space – Incorporates Cafeteria
Renovate 1986 Field House & CTE Spaces below Wing & D Wing (1929 War Memorial)
Phased Construction

Click to View Key Advantages

  • Large reduction in the horizontal elongation of the school reduces student travel time and promotes program integration.
  • Less complex phasing implications for the majority of the academic classrooms.
  • Compact building footprint with a high percentage of new construction has potential for increased energy efficiency.
  • Yields the largest open/field space on the northern slope of Central Hill.
  • Provides a future opportunity to restore the condition of the historic 1895/1914 structure as a freestanding landmark on the campus of Central Hill.
 
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Prioritizing Possible New Features

The following items are possible additions to the preferred High School redesign plans above. These items would not receive MSBA reimbursement. It is important for us to understand the priorities of the community as we make decisions about which, if any, of these options we should proceed with.

Expanded Auditorium

Cost premium associated with sizing the auditorium above and beyond the 750 seats that the MSBA typically allocates for a High School this size. SBC has classified this as a low priority since a larger auditorium still would not be able to host the entire base design enrollment of 1510 students, therefore oversizing the auditorium would still require two separate events. Furthermore, technology advances will allow for simulcast in alternate gathering spaces, such as the dining commons or gymnasium.

Somerville Child Care Center

Includes space for the Somerville Child Care Center at the new high school. The Child Care Center is a public daycare that is open to all, with preference being given to Somerville Public School teachers, City of Somerville employees and City of Somerville Residents. The daycare is currently located at Somerville High School directly below the school library. As part of the new high school design, the Child Care Center would be located in greater proximity to the Child Development program within the high school, allowing for greater educational opportunities and benefits for both programs.

Somerville City Cable

Includes space for a dedicated control booth and support spaces for Somerville City Cable at the new high school. Somerville City Cable provides programming and production for the two municipal cable television stations: City TV and the Educational Channel; giving Somerville cable subscribers both City and school content. The studio is currently located at Somerville High School directly below the school library. The recording studio for Somerville City Cable would be shared with the Somerville High School broadcast program as part of the new school design.

Parking Garage & Field

Includes costs associated with a two story parking garage capable of housing approximately 300 vehicles and a U-12 soccer field on the roof of the structure which adds much needed open space to the HS site. SBC has identified this as a high priority option.

Department of Public Works (DPW) Space

Includes a combination of office and storage space for the Department of Public Works (DPW) at the new high school. Separate from the custodial services, DPW is responsible for the maintenance of the current high school, and will be responsible for maintenance of the new high school as well. There are existing offices and storage areas located at the high school that would be recreated on a smaller scale.

Cambridge Health Alliance

Includes space to house and operate a Teen Health Center at the new high school. Cambridge Health Alliance operates a Teen Health Center that is currently located at Somerville High School, and serves both Somerville High School students and young adults in the community.

Sustainable Design Exceeding LEED Silver

This line item captures potential costs associated with energy efficiency and sustainability measures exceeding those required under the USGBC LEED Silver certification. Potential additional efficiency measures will require further investigation and exploration, but may include geo-thermal energy, photovoltaics (solar), rooftop wind turbines, rainwater harvesting or greywater harvesting systems.

Alternative 0 & 1

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Alternative 0 – Code Upgrade & Repair Only
Alternative 1 – Full Gut Renovation, No New Additions
Both Alternatives Involve Phased Construction

Determined to Be Unfeasible
(More info)

These plans addressed the code issues in a building with significant sections originally built in 1895 and 1929, however, they did not address the Education Plan that is the foundation for the interior design of the building.

For a full explanation of this decision, please view page 2 of the March 14, 2016 meeting minutes here.

Alternative 2

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Alternative 2 – Addition / Renovation
Renovate 1986 CTE Wing & Southern Portions of 1895/1929 Classrooms
New Auditorium & Cafeteria
Phased Construction

Determined to Be Unfeasible
(More info)

These plans maintained the current horizontal elongation of the school which is a challenge to the educational environment. The designs yielded less new open/field space on the northern slope of Central Hill than Alternative 4B, and there were more complex phasing implications for the majority of the academic classrooms.

Alternative 3

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Alternative 3 – Addition / Renovation
Renovate 1986 CTE Wing & Southern Portions of 1895/1929 Classrooms
Renovate Auditorium New Cafeteria Phased Construction

Determined to Be Unfeasible
(More info)

The renovation of the existing auditorium would be extremely costly due to the rebuild of the stage and current seismic code, and would only re-create the northern blank face of the existing building towards Gilman Square. It would also force the preservation of low, dark, undesirable space below the auditorium, which is unsuitable for modern education.

These plans yielded the least new open/field space on the northern slope of Central Hill, and maintained the current horizontal elongation of the school, which is a challenge to the educational environment. The preservation of the entire 1929 & 1895 existing southern elevations maintained the existing barrier between the northern and southern portions of the site – reducing the usability of the new open space.

Alternative 4

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Alternative 4 – Addition / Renovation
Concourse Approach
Enclosed / Open Central Circulation and Activity Space – Incorporates Cafeteria
Renovate 1986 CTE Wing & 1895/1929 B Wing
Renovate Auditorium Phased Construction

Determined to Be Unfeasible
(More info)

While this plan could connect the lower levels of the school in an open & fluid manner, the upper levels of the various programs would become isolated, requiring a higher number of stairs, elevators, and support facilities.

Alternative 4a

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Alternative 4a – Addition / Renovation
Campus Approach
Renovate 1986 Gymnasium & 1895 Building
Renovate Auditorium
New Cafeteria
New Disconnected Buildings
Phased Construction

Determined to Be Unfeasible
(More info)

The disconnected nature of individual buildings was deemed to be counter to the main educational goal of creating an integrated comprehensive school with improved opportunity for all programs to interact with each other. In addition to that programmatic issue, the disconnected buildings raised safety and security concerns, and would result in a higher number of stairs, elevators and exterior building surfaces.

Alternative 6

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Alternative 6 – New Construction
Demolish DPW Structures and Build New at Franey Road Site

 

Determined to Be Unfeasible
(More info)

This plan was the most expensive option for the City and would require the City to find recreation space to replace Trum Field of at least equal size and quality.

For a full explanation of this decision, please view page 2 of the March 14, 2016 meeting minutes here.

Alternative 5

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Alternative 5 – New Construction
Demolish Existing High School and Build Completely New on the Existing High School Site
Phased Construction

Determined to Be Unfeasible
(More info)

All new construction on the existing high school site – as proposed by this alternative - would require the full demolition of the existing school. Portions of the building that date from specific eras hold higher cultural significance for the City, including the original 1895 building and the 1929 War Memorial building that currently houses the school library. Alternatives that maintain some portion of those two elements of the existing building were deemed as preferable.

Step Two: Preferred Schematic Report (PSR)

Step Three: Design Submissions

The Somerville High School Building Project team is finalizing design to submit to the MSBA. The design will be submitted in three phases of completion, which are outlined below!
      • 60% Design Submission (November 2017)
      • 90% Design Submission (February 2018)
      • 100% Design Submission (April 2018)

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Contact us:
shsfuture@somervillema.gov