Visitors leave Roosevelt after Wednesday’s walk-thru

Interested parties take a walk-thru of Roosevelt

Contributed By:The 411 News

What to do with Roosevelt – looking at its past and future

An architectural design firm, an environmental services company, a demolition company, and a concrete construction contractor joined Roosevelt High School alumni for a tour of the closed school Wednesday.

They had responded to the September 21st Gary Community School Corporation's Request for Interest into the Roosevelt Preservation Project, the district's plan to gain partners for the revitalization and reuse of the school that closed in February 2019.

“Roosevelt means a great deal to the Gary community and its alumni,” said Eric Parish of Gary Schools Recovery, which manages the GCSC. “We are eager to find an entity that can offer a viable plan that clearly preserves the school’s extraordinary legacy. We welcome expressions of interest from experienced developers, architects, community stakeholders, and interested parties who can offer potential inventive uses for this landmark.”

Matthew Howard, GCSC Director of Buildings & Grounds led the tour. The building has camera surveillance and an alarm system with a 24-hour manned security.

"The athletic wing didn't suffer water damage. The roof on the entire building is in good condition and I believe it is still under warranty," Howard said. A classroom wing on the west, near Harrison Street, also saw water damage. A skywalk connects it to the main building.

The turnout represented 2 groups, one looking towards Roosevelt's future and the other, its past.

Al Young is a 1956 Roosevelt graduate and concrete construction contractor. Young has followed in the footsteps of his dad, also a cement contractor who worked on several additions to the school. Young lives in Indianapolis.

Asbestos products were not a big component in building construction in the 1930s when Roosevelt was under construction as they came to be in later decades, said Anthony Yiatras of NWI Environmental. What he did see was asbestos insulation covering pipes and pipe joints. "As long as the asbestos covering hasn't cracked, it should be safe." He said more investigation is needed to see if asbestos was used to make the glue for the floor tiles.

If the building is demolished, asbestos removal will be a concern. Mold and mildew are other environmental hazards in the building that will need mitigation if the building is reused.

Cory Critser, with Gary Material Supply, a demolition and excavation firm said he doesn't know if the entire building will be demolished. "I'm trying to figure that out."

And Critser didn't see much to salvage because of the unknowns. "I don't know what needs to come out. Not too many schools are being built these days. It's not likely anything here would be used at another school. Maybe a construction firm might be interested in the student lockers."

Katherine Darnstadt of Latent Design, a Chicago architecture and design firm, saw potential use of Roosevelt as a space for a mix of residential and community activities.

The alumni group, Henry Taylor, class of 1978; Judy Leek Mead, class of 1963; Ed Simmons and Dave Bullock, class of 1962 joined the tour so they could keep an eye on what's happening with Roosevelt. They are among the Roosevelt alumni who mobilized public support that resulted in the school district's plan to save the school and not leave it to abandonment after closing.

Alumni are more aligned with Latent's view to make the school a place for community activities.

The walk-thru covered the athletic wing and the main building, from the basement boiler room to the third floor classrooms and auditorium balcony.

Passing by the trophy case, Bullock said, “I heard the trophies were in storage in Chicago.” Howard said all trophies and memorabilia were in storage at West Side High School.

Mead searched for classrooms of her favorite teachers. “Here’s Ida B. King’s room. Down at the end of the hall was ‘Bear’ Brown’s room.” She and her 11 siblings attended Roosevelt. Her brother was a coach at Roosevelt.

Simmons was a pipefitter for the school district when Roosevelt got a new heating system. The failure of the heating system, the burst pipes and flooding never should have happened, Simmons said. But they did a few years later, unfortunately, when the school was under state takeover and responsibilities for Roosevelt’s maintenance were in dispute.

Submission deadline for interested parties is November 2.

Story Posted:10/15/2020

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