Finegold Alexander Architects and the city of Boston announced the completion an $18.7 million renovation and reopening of the Eliot Innovation Upper School at 39 North Bennet Street in the North End. Finegold Alexander Architects served as the designer and architect.
The project team also included: Colantonio Inc, general contractor; Boston Building Consultants, civil and structural engineer; R.W. Sullivan, MEP/FP engineer; Bryant Associates, civil engineer; and Kalin Associates, specifications.
“The project involved the complex reconstruction of three connected historic buildings on North Bennet Street to provide a total of 42,000sf of education space for grades 4-8,” notes Christopher Lane, senior associate, Finegold Alexander, who served as project manager. “The neighborhood density was also a factor in routing materials and deliveries throughout the project.”
The design incorporates a welcoming and transparent first floor, to reflect the school’s place in the center of the North End community. The entry point in the lobby is defined with porcelain tile and bold colors. It connects to a media/library room that can be closed off from the rest of the school and used in the afternoons and evenings as a community meeting space.
“A school reflects the heart of a community, and we gave the building a heart,” said Tony Hsiao, principal and director of sesign at Finegold.
Two new stair towers, expanded roof monitor, enlarged window openings, and restoration of the historic façades and roof dormers were a sensitive blend of old and new in the transformation of Eliot Innovation School.
In addition to the multi-purpose room, cafeteria, and administrative offices, the new school houses 20 general-purpose classrooms for 15 to 20 students each; specialty counseling spaces; two SPED classrooms for 10 students with dedicated computers; and two enrichment classrooms, one for visual arts and one for technology/robotics.
A multi-purpose media room (library) is located at the heart of the building, as well as a warming kitchen. All new HVAC, electrical, plumbing, fire protection, and life-safety systems are provided.
“In addition, although it formerly served as the North Bennet Street School, a renowned vocational school serving adult learners, the building was very difficult to navigate through with multiple levels and maze-like corridors, and lacked a sense of identity,” added Hsiao. “Through our design, we created a whole out of parts, a sense of arrival, and bright and airy classrooms throughout with clearly defined circulation using color and transparency. The central organizing principle was to reuse and transform the original building in the center of the site — which was a former church dating back to 1823 — into a double-height multi-purpose room, cafeteria, and dedicated large classrooms and toilet cores which are shared by the entire school.”
The rapid success and growth of the Eliot K-8 Innovation School spurred the need to expand the school through acquisition and renovation. The Upper School was designed for grades 4-8, and while the 585 Commercial Street location is under construction, grades 3-8 will be starting at the 39 N. Bennet Street location in September 2017.