CCISD open to options on what to do with classic architecture at Clear View HS
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The curvature of the lines, the geometric, inlaid details between stately columns - it has 1930s Art Deco written all over it.
And even in 2017, there is nothing square or conventional about the Clear View High School campus, located at 400 South Walnut.
Although one of the oldest school campuses in the Clear Creek Independent School District - built in 1939 first as Webster High School until undergoing a name-change in 1980 as Clear View High School - there is still something unmistakably timeless and modern about the campus’s front facade.
What happens to that facade is still up in the air as the district weighs options on how to both accommodate the needs of its students while respecting the building’s place in the community’s history.
The district initially planned to demolish it and rebuild a new campus as part of its $487 million bond referendum up for approval in the May 6 election, but vocal opposition within the community has caused the district to press pause on those plans for now, with a final decision on what to do with the building to include input from the district, community and other groups further down the road.
Those considerations, according to Clear View principal, Michael Houston, would include whether to incorporate aspects of the building’s original architecture - such as the facade and other Art Deco elements - into a possible rebuild.
“There are certain aspects of the building that we know the community (is attached to), and we’ve heard what they’ve said,” Houston said. “We want to make sure that we work with the community and city and figure out the best option.”
As it currently stands, if voters approve the bond, the district would pour approximately $45 million into an extensive improvement and rebuild project at the campus, including to the building’s drainage system, parking lot and foundation as well as the construction of a $21 million 82,000-square-foot high school on an adjacent property with a 350-student capacity, an expansion of the existing building’s student capacity of 720. (Included in the $45 million is $879,676 to demolish the building.)
“The new building would be built in a fashion so that we would be able to increase our enrollment,” said Houston.
The bond package is projected to result in a 3.7 cent tax rate increase, which would mean around $6 more monthly in taxes on a home with the median value of $223,635.
When the campus was first constructed under the design of architect Rudolph G. Schneider, it was a bold take on the forward-thinking aesthetics of Art Deco, but 80 years later, the campus is in need of some major cosmetic and infrastructural work.
David Bush, executive director of Preservation Houston, a group which advocates for the preservation of historic buildings and landmarks in and surrounding Houston, said he hasn’t toured the inside of the campus, but did peek through its front windows and noted still-intact Art Deco flourishes in the school’s front lobby.
Art Deco, said Bush, “was the last style where there was real craftsmanship involved in these buildings and they really wanted to make a statement, not just about what the community was but what it hoped it would become.”
According to Bush, the building used to have two long streamlined wings on either side where the classrooms were as well as glass blocks. It’s hard to tell - because of the additions and periodic cosmetic renovations throughout its history - how much of the original design is left behind the front concrete panels, although aerial shots from the 1960s and a search on Google Earth offer some clues.
“It was a very impressive building and they just don’t make buildings like that anymore,” Bush said.
The district doesn’t discount the campus’s architectural significance, but its priority is the current needs of its students, according to Houston.
“Our concern is is to make sure we have a building that’s suitable and safer for the kids here now and in the future,” he said.
The district will keep its options open while trying to find the most cost-effective and beneficial solution, said Elaina Polson, the district’s spokesperson.
“If the (original) building was in optimal shape we wouldn’t be asking for voters to consider rebuilding it. The cost of repairing, renovating and bringing it up to code is frankly as practical as it is to rebuild the school,” Polson said.
There is the possibility that the front entranceway, facade, gym and other Art Deco features could be part of the school’s future, she added.
“We would be open to opportunities - where they may exist - to partner with another organization to somehow salvage (those features) or incorporate that in the rebuild of the campus,” she said. “What we want the public to know is that this will be a community-wide discussion and decision.”
David Bush hopes the building will retain most of its Art Deco signatures.
“For Webster it’s about the last evidence of any sense of history for what Webster was,” he said.
Bush, whose group has shared its input about Clear View’s future with CCISD and the Texas Historical Commission, admits that for preservationists, it’s not always academic, but often about holding onto to a remnant of a time when buildings made grand statements.
“Sometimes it’s just really simple... like, ‘Wow, that’s cool’,” he said. “They don’t do things like that anymore.”
For more information on the 2017 CCISD bond, see http://bit.ly/2lQgkDu.