After decades of neglect and almost 10 years of planning, one former elementary school is getting a makeover. A green makeover to be exact.
The building that once housed historic Jordan Elementary School on Ninth Avenue S near 22nd Street will become the first city-owned building to be environmentally certified. Upon completion, the school, which was built in 1925, will open to Head Start classes.
"This project continues to demonstrate St. Petersburg's leadership in sustainable projects," Mike Connors, the city's internal services administrator, said of the city's plan to go green.
St. Petersburg was recognized as a green city by the Florida Green Building Coalition, according to the city's Web site.
Points are awarded for environmental projects and programs, and most city buildings are required to be certified, Connors, 55, said.
The project has been on the city's to-do list since 2001, but construction did not begin until funding and approval from the state were obtained, city officials said.
The city needed permission to remove the 1948 addition, which sits in front of the original entrance. The plan is to restore the original building using the latest in eco-friendly architecture and construction, project planners said.
"This is probably going to be the first high-profile St. Petersburg green project," architect Paul C. Palmer, 38, said.
Palmer and partner Kathryn A. Younkin, 53, of Renker Eich Parks Architects were chosen based on their historical restoration and environmental experience.
The building will be evaluated using the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System.
LEED focuses on key health and environmental areas such as energy efficiency, water savings and indoor environmental quality, according to the U.S. Green Building Council's Web site.
In order to be certified, architects and contractors must adhere to LEED guidelines to earn points.
The ratings system is divided into certified (29-36 points), silver (37-43), gold (44-57), and platinum (58-79).
With a goal of 41 points, Palmer said the team hopes to be LEED silver.
The $4.7 million project will include solar panels for water and electricity, and a rainwater harvesting system that holds 5,000 gallons of water underground, Palmer said. Points are also earned through a form of air conditioning recycling called energy recovery ventilation.
The parking lot will also contain a narrow pond to absorb excess rainwater to prevent it from ending up in the bay, Younkin said.
Other items on the LEED checklist include utilizing existing parts of the building, installing energy efficient lighting, automatic faucets, and recycling facilities and using safer paints, adhesives and finishes. The landscaping will include native plants that can handle a dry climate, Palmer and Younkin said.
At the site, contractors of Hennessy Construction help earn points through recycling waste that normally ends up in the scrap yard.
Contractors also removed asbestos glue found behind blackboards and lead-based paints on classroom walls.
"We're kind of mixing the old construction with the new," project manager Christopher J. Roginski, 34, said of the LEED project. "This is the next evolution of construction."
In addition to LEED guidelines, the contractors help to restore historical aspects of the school.
Each classroom will be modeled after a 1925 original, called Classroom 116, project superintendent Bill McClung said.
The original fixtures, trimming and woodwork of Classroom 116 were salvaged, and will be reproduced in the other classrooms, McClung, 50, said.
The team said it hopes to finish the project by this fall , and once complete, Head Start will occupy the building.
Jordan Elementary School opened in 1925 as the city's second school for African-Americans during the days of segregation. The school closed in 1971.
Sybil Crocetti is a reporter for the Neighborhood News Bureau, a program of the Department of Journalism and Media Studies at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. Kirk Bell, a photojournalist for the Neighborhood News Bureau, contributed to this report.