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Expanding the Eliot School Campus and Renovating the Former N. Bennet St. School [Video]

This video shows a community meeting hosted by Boston Public Schools regarding the planned expansion of the Eliot K-8 Innovation School and the renovation of the former North Bennet Street School properties. The meeting was held on April 8, 2014 at the Nazzaro Community Center in Boston’s North End. Video timeline index:

  • 00:00 Introduction by Carleton Jones, Executive Director, Capital & Facilities Management, Boston Public Schools
  • 06:00 Comments by Eliot K-8 Innovation School Principal Traci Walker Griffith
  • 19:00 North Bennet Street School property renovation presented by architectural firm
  • 33:00 Brian Melia, City of Boston Planning Office – Bidding process and construction schedule
  • 36:30 Questions & Answers

Boston Public Schools reached out to the community this week to present an $18 million expansion plan for the Eliot K-8 Innovation School including a renovation of the former North Bennet Street School (the “Upper School”) as well as 585 Commercial Street (the “Lower School”). Combined with the existing property at 16 Charter Street, the new Eliot Campus will consist of three North End / Waterfront properties.

Principal Traci Walker Griffith is expected to oversee all three school campus properties under the Eliot School umbrella. “It’s an exciting time,” said the Walker Griffith, “but we cannot do it without the support of the community and this is the time for all of us to ask questions and get the answers from the city.”

A Master Plan was presented in general terms for all three properties (see the table below), however, this meeting focused primarily on the renovation of the North Bennet Street School at 39 N. Bennet Street. The NBSS buildings will have a finished design this summer with construction starting later in 2014. Construction at the NBSS property will be complete by the start of the 2016-17 school year.

Designers of the North Bennet Street buildings spoke about its complete renovation and how the property has evolved from what was once included a church structure. An adjacent historic house will continue to be separate and is not included in the construction project. All the floors in the building will be leveled to incorporate handicap access, an elevator, egresses and other school codes.

The main entrance to the Eliot Upper School will be where the NBSS gallery was located on Salem Street. The exterior footprint and height of the North Bennet Street buildings is not expected to change, although the addition of elevator and egresses will create new metal siding in some areas. The top of the building also includes metal screening for roof equipment. The NBSS property does not have much open space, but includes a very large interior multi-purpose activity area as well as a cafeteria. A media center will also be included on the first floor with computers and projection equipment. There will be no air conditioning in the NBSS property, although the windows will be able to open. The property at 585 Commercial St. has air conditioning and can accommodate summer school.

Eliot K-8 Campus Master Plan

The existing 16 Charter Street building currently serves students in grades K-4 while 585 Commercial Street has grades 5-8 on the first floor. This summer, 585 Commercial Street will be built out on its second floor and expand to serving grades 4-8 by for school year 2014-15. Once the NBSS renovated building comes online in school year 2016, the property at 585 Commercial Street will close for a one-year construction period. The existing Eliot on Charter Street will also undergo some renovations while occupied.

At the end of the construction period for all the Eliot properties, older students in grades 6-8 will be served at 16 Charter Street, K0/K1-2 will be served at 585 Commercial Street and the North Bennet Street building will serve grades 3-5. There are expected to be 5 classes per grade in the long-term configuration of the school’s North End / Waterfront campus.

Although a total student population number has not been finalized, officials indicated that a long-term goal would be to serve 5 strands (the number of classes at each grade level). There will be four general education classrooms and one special education strand. Currently, the Eliot has between two and three strands depending on the grade level with a fourth K-2 expected to begin in the 2014-15 school year. BPS did not give out numbers at the meeting, but at approximately 20+ students in each classroom, the total number could approach 800-1,000 students across the three Eliot properties. This compares to only 150 students at the Eliot in 2007 (as a K-5) when Traci Walker Griffith arrived and about 500 in the 2014-15 school year.

Boston Public Schools Planning Schedule, subject to future revision


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17 Replies to “Expanding the Eliot School Campus and Renovating the Former N. Bennet St. School [Video]

  1. 7 years ago you couldn’t pay people to go to the Eliot. A few neighborhood families braved the storm. Traci Griffith and her team arrived and the rest is history.

  2. So in 2007 there were 150 students and within the next two years they are projecting about 1000 students? While this may be good news for people with school age children living in downtown Boston, as a property owner who lives within the triangle created by these three properties, I am less enthusiastic. Already this year there is a noticeable increase in the volume of traffic and the noise created several times a day by boisterous students walking between 16 Charter and 585 Commercial. When I imagine a third site at the top of Salem Street and even higher enrollment (seven times what is was 5 years ago) and even more traffic flowing up narrow single lane streets, I cannot fathom the city’s thinking on this one.

    1. A bigger school in our neighborhood which leads to the benefit of having more families stay is all positive in my eyes. The north end gets a lot of foot traffic no matter what. Since you own a building, you will have the benefit of watching your property value go up. I guess I don’t get it- would you prefer the site to be apartments full of college students?

      1. Totally agree. More and/or better schools equals more families and a better and more caring/involved quality of residents and I would think increased property values as you pointed out. A win-win for all of us who love this neighborhood. If we can affect the ratio of “Boisterous students” in mid-afternoon over vomiting/defecating/urinating/screaming/etc. at all hours of the night and early morning? I’ll take the former, thank you.

        1. I don’t think it’s an either-or choice between living on a college campus and living on an elementary school campus.

    2. Meanwhile, Beacon Hill, Back Bay and the West End all do without elementary schools.

      It’s strange that this is happening.

      1. @she said: There was a movement some time ago to get a school in one of those areas. I was following it at the time, but it seems nothing ever came of it or because of the Eliot expansion they stopped pushing for one, maybe, I do not know. I really wonder what happened.

  3. I thought the building at 585 was going to be a separate K-8 school (per an announcement by former Mayor Menino) after the Eliot was done using it on a temporary basis. I guess we are left to assume Mayor Walsh changed that decision. Hm.

  4. People on this site often complain about the negative changes in the North End. The growing Eliot School is a key catalyst for positive change.

    Good schools make great neighborhoods, attracting and retaining families who will work toward a better quality of life for the community.

    Imagine a North End that is known more as a place to raise a family (sound familiar lifelong North Enders?) than for restaurants and late night drinking.

    Regardless of whether you have kids or not, if you intend to live here for a long time, you should wish the Eliot nothing but continued growth and success!

  5. Junior, great points.

    If you don’t like the idea of families being able to live in your neighborhood and raise kids, there are plenty of nearby neighborhoods that would probably be perfect for you. You’d probably be happier in the Back Bay, the Seaport, or Downtown Crossing.

    1. The way I’ve read the comments, I don’t think anyone has written that they “don’t like the idea of families being able to live in [their] neighborhood and raise kids”. My own concern is with regards first, the size of the school (ie. the number of students, which is the process of going from 150 to over 1000 students within a couple of years) and second, the sprawling nature of the campus and the choice to have large groups of unsupervised students move from one site to another several times a day. It should go without saying that not all the spaces at the school are for North End residents: the students are also children who live in the many other downtown neighborhoods that don’t have their own school. Perhaps schools should be built in some of those locations?

      1. “the choice to have large groups of unsupervised students move from one site to another several times a day”

        Where do you see that? Each facility looks to be self-contained, for a group of kids for certain grade levels. See the big table above. Several times a day?

        And what is there that suggests kids would be unsupervised during the school day? People get fired for less.

        1. Like you, when the 585 facility was proposed, I imagined that each facility would be self-contained. But the group walks up and down Charter St, more than once a day and, as I have already written, they are loud: loud enough to hear all winter long with the windows closed. I have not seen an adult with them. This is the reason for the concern about a third facility a couple of blocks from the others and a further increase in the number of students.

      2. when Julie billiard and christoph Columbus high school was open plenty of unsupervised students walking around after school not every one from the north end went to those schools

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