Written by Neil Strack and Prue Runkle
The best of both worlds ~ a building updated and equipped with the amenities and sheer classroom space necessary to meet the changing needs of our high school students and also a building whose essential architectural dignity is preserved so that it may contain and convey a message to those inside and out about the quality and character of the educational experience Central High School affords.
You just don’t get that in a new build. Alumni cherish the setting and their feelings about their high school are strong. The experiences and friendships, the musicals and basketball games, homecoming and reunions, teachers and learning are part of that building in the 600 block of West University Avenue in Champaign. There is no reason to demolish it and rebuild.
Renovation will be less expensive than building a new school. Renovation will
preserve the historic building. It will conserve resources and be more sustainable.
The renovation plan provides the best approach for traffic safety. Renovation will
have less impact on the surrounding neighborhood.
The architects hired by Unit 4 have proposed a plan for Central to be renovated, brought up to current standards, to add a 3-story component for additional classrooms, update the technical capabilities, re-figure the floor plan, design a theater and band room, and add a field house to be used for both athletics and assemblies.
A large area on Church Street (McKinley YMCA property) is being developed for athletic practice fields, marching band practice space, and PE classes. Faculty parking will be provided by a proposed 2-level structure which could easily become 4 levels at a later date. This plan provides 12,000 square feet more space for fewer dollars.
The Champaign Park District has become involved and may partner in building an aquatics facility and additional tennis courts, and ball fields at Spalding Park which would be used by high school students as well as the public.
This planned renovation allows for the preservation of the historic Burnham home on the corner of Church and Lynn Streets. It could continue as it current use and, perhaps, in time be utilized as an educational laboratory for teaching life skills related to business, construction technology, history and preservation.
Unit 4 will be a good steward of its facilities by reinvesting in the current Central High School building. It is less expensive to renovate an existing school than to build a new school of the same quality. National statistics and building trends show that renovated schools are 30% less costly compared to building new school.
Central High School belongs on West University Avenue. We support the plan which calls for a renovation of the current building with practice fields on West Church Street; the best of both worlds.