The Newport News City Council and School Board heard Tuesday from an architecture firm that plans for the new Huntington Middle School and community center would make it a “21st-century one-stop shop.”
Staff from Quinn Evans — the second architecture firm hired by the city to create a master plan — unveiled a plan that would create a new school building while repurposing pieces from the original school in a community building. The project spans a seven-block area between Orcutt and Wickham avenues and 28th and 36th streets.
“This is a win-win for the whole community,” Mayor McKinley Price said of the plan. “The school will have a brand new, high-tech design as opposed to trying to blend that into a historic building.”
Price added that the plan has “far surpassed anything I had imagined.”
Huntington Middle School first opened in first opened 1936 at 3401 Orcutt Ave. It served about 500 students until it closed in June 2018 because it was deteriorating.
The proposal for the new middle school is a three-story design with space to add six to eight new classrooms if the school needs to expand in the future. The plan features several collaborative learning spaces, a courtyard and an auditorium situated close to the entrance for performances and events.
“I’m excited that the students will be able to get a brand new building — I think that’s really critical for 21st-century learning — and to have the opportunity to repurpose the old Huntington as something that’s so healthy for the community,” said Vice Mayor Saundra Cherry.
Using the old school building as the foundation for the new community center gives the community the chance to go back and walk the halls of the school, Cherry added.
The plans, presented Tuesday at a meeting for both the council and school board, would consolidate the existing Doris Miller Community Center and Pearl Bailey Library into one facility. The city says the recreation center, which was built in 1944, is outdated and the library is overcapacity.
Plans for the new community center include an indoor pool that could be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, instead of the existing outdoor pool which is only open in the summertime.
In addition to the library and pool, the proposed plans include a gymnasium, community program space, locker rooms and a large meeting room. A portion of the building inside the entrance would be used for displays honoring the history of the original Huntington school.
“The importance and legacy of Huntington is more than a building, but the building provides a marker that can connect the past to the present and the future,” said Nakita Reed, a historic preservation specialist with the firm.
Plans for the outside space at the community center include a waterpark, playground and pavilion. The proposal also features an amphitheater and community garden, as well as courts and a multi-purpose field for sports.
The project is expected to cost $57 million — $40 million for Huntington, $17 million for the public buildings and resources on the site and $3.87 million for planning and design, according to the city’s capital projects plan.
The council expects the public facilities available at the Doris Miller Community Center will be affected during construction, but city staff is planning for substitute areas for recreation activities, said City Manager Cindy Rohlf.
“The commitment from council — and the direction to us — has been that the school is the priority,” Rohlf said. “We will find a way to provide other amenities in the community while we’re in the construction phase. What we’ve been hearing from the community is that they feel pretty strongly that it’s worth the wait to go through this process.”
Jessica Nolte, 757-912-1675, firstname.lastname@example.org