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New Trier Picks Design Firm for Winnetka Campus Project

Construction will be under $100 million and will go to voters in a referendum either this fall or next spring.

Wight & Company's design. Courtesy of New Trier
Wight & Company's design. Courtesy of New Trier

The New Trier School Board has named the design firm for potential new construction at the Winnetka campus from among three finalists

The board selected Wight & Company, citing the firm's experience with high school projects and the support it had from community members, whom the district solicited for input. 

The board requested that all proposals be under $100 million. Voters will get to weigh in on the final plans at a referendum, either this fall or next spring.

You can see artists renderings of all three finalists here

The following is from New Trier High School District 203:

Citing the firm’s depth of successful high school design work, extensive community engagement experience, and an initial design that presents creative solutions for New Trier’s curricular and instructional needs, the District 203 Board of Education selected Wight & Company as the architecture team to help the District develop a design for a potential Winnetka Campus project.

Wight was one of three architecture teams selected in December 2013 as finalists for a chance to work with the New Trier community to develop a targeted project that would replace three adjacent buildings that are among the oldest and most inefficient on the Winnetka Campus: the 1912 Cafeteria, 1931 Tech Arts Building, and 1950 Music Building.

The selection of an architecture firm is an important step as the District seeks to reach out to community members, parents, teachers, students, and staff to develop a proposal that can then be used to solicit feedback from community members over the next several months.

The Board voted in favor of the selection following the recommendation of the District’s Facilities Steering Committee, which had designated Wight as the top choice.

Board members discussed the fact that any of the three architectural design teams selected by the District would need to make changes to their plan. The design teams created their initial concepts in a competition process that did not allow for feedback from the District, so all of the designs had flaws that would need to be changed, and community members will have many chances to give their input over the next several months.

The Facilities Steering Committee, which includes representatives from the faculty, administration, and Board, recommended Wight based on criteria that included the company’s relevant experience with similar high school projects, the quality of their team, their ability to present ideas to the public and receive feedback, their creative solutions addressing space limitations and building deficiencies, and an initial design that best fit the curricular needs of New Trier’s academic and elective departments.

In the past decade and a half, Wight has designed 10 high school projects in nine districts, including Illinois high schools Naperville Central, Lemont, and York, as well as Webster Groves in Missouri. Most of the high schools are located in older residential areas on campuses with little room for expansion. References cited Wight’s skill at phasing and managing projects that involved demolition, reconstruction, and renovation while school is in session.

The three teams presented their initial concepts to an audience of about 120 community members and staff at a special Board of Education meeting on Feb. 10. The design boards and models were then put on public display through Feb. 28, and community members could comment online or on cards provided at both campuses. More than 180 people provided written comments. While no single team emerged as a dominant favorite, Wight came out ahead of the other two teams among community members, students, staff, and parents who indicated a preference.

All three design firms were asked to include additional science labs, flexible academic and elective classrooms, additional library space, and a multipurpose cafeteria/meeting/study space in their presentations. The potential project focuses only on the Music Building, Cafeteria, and Tech Arts Building. It does not include a new gym, field house, fitness facilities, or underground parking – all parts of an unsuccessful 2010 proposal that have been cut to decrease the size and cost of any potential new project.

The District has specified that the total cost for the project cannot exceed $100 million, and the Board’s Finance Committee continues to consider financing options. The next two opportunities for the Board to consider a referendum are November 2014 or spring 2015.

The Board will vote on a contract with Wight at a future meeting.

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