Monday, December 18, 2017
Education

Hyde Park school taking another look at expansion plans

HYDE PARK — St. John's Episcopal Parish Day School wants to expand.

The school's lower division campus on S Orleans Avenue hasn't been updated in years. There's no room for art classes or science labs. The current exercise space is on a deck, exposed to the elements.

"Our facility is just aging," said Lee Lowry, a spokeswoman for the school. "It's a great historical building in its own right, it just needs to be updated."

But neighbors in the already compact community are not convinced expansion is such a great idea.

"Our concerns have to do with the density and maintaining the consistency of architecture in the neighborhood," said Rudy Fernandez, a neighborhood activist.

The Hyde Park Preservation Inc. (HPPI), a group dedicated to keeping the historical look and feel of the neighborhood cohesive, opposed the school's initial expansion plans and proposal to move an existing historical structure and demolish another one.

In response, school officials are taking a second look at the plans.

"We have already gone back and are having new plans made addressing the problems they have brought up," Lowry said.

The school has been open since 1951 and now has three campuses to serve students from pre-kindergarten to middle school. The S Orleans Avenue site is also the home to St. John's Episcopal Church, which celebrated its 100th anniversary last year.

The school does not plan to increase enrollment, Lowry said, only make enough room for the students it already has.

The school's original plans included relocating a historic home adjacent to the school to provide space for the expansion. The house would be moved across the street to 909 S Orleans Ave., where another historical house owned by the school would be demolished.

Those plans, however, did not go over very well in the community.

"There have been concerns about moving the house, so we are addressing it and trying to figure out what all of our options are," Lowry said.

Plans also called for an increase in the size of the parish hall, the addition of a four-story gym and a three story building with six classrooms, according to the Old Hyde Park Gazette.

Among the Hyde Park Preservation Inc.'s concerns: windows and roof lines that do not maintain the proportions found in the rest of the community and a facade out of alignment with adjacent buildings.

And a current problem, congestion in the streets at peak school and church events, is not addressed in the new plans.

"Cars are often parked illegally in no-parking zones and directly in front of stop signs," the HPPI's position statement said.

The school has a lot to do, Fernandez said, to make the expansion something the neighborhood will approve of. Fernandez, whose daughters went to the school, is not sure that will happen.

Still, the process is far from complete. Besides working to revise plans, the school must hold several public meetings with city officials before gaining final approval, Lowry said.

The first of those meetings, with the city's architectural review board, has been postponed until June 13.

Shelley Rossetter can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3401.

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