Upland selected as city school architect
by DELANEY WALKER, Banner Staff Writer
May 07, 2013 | 770 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cleveland Board of Education members unanimously chose Upland Design Group as the architectural firm to handle the design of the new Cleveland City Schools system elementary school off Georgetown Road.

Upland Design of Crossville is the same firm behind the design of Cleveland High School’s science wing.

Board member Dr. Murl Dirksen said there were a lot of great ideas. He explained narrowing his choice to only one was difficult.

“The firms all talked about different things. There were so many different approaches,” Dirksen said. “It is hard. You have about six different kinds of fruit here.”

He wanted to know how he could choose the top company.

Steve Morgan, board member, said he looked at the companies on paper first and then analyzed their presentations.

“We all agreed the six we heard from were capable. Presentations were at a disadvantage because they did not know what we were looking for, but they showed us some of the personality of the company,” Morgan said.

“It is not really that you are eliminating five, but you are choosing one.”

Board members discussed what they did not appreciate about some of the presentations.

Robinson said listing the cons first helped her make a decision about the pros and cons of the decision. “I didn’t like how some architects purposefully low-balled the costs. Everything was way, way low. We hadn’t heard a figure like that in 15 years,” Robinson said. “I sat there when one said that and thought, I am not going to choose you because you are giving me the cheapest price. We are building a school that is going to be around for a hundred years and I want a cheap price, I do, but I want quality.”

Continued Robinson, “We can build a cheap school, but then the community is going to have to turn around in 15 years and build another.”

She said another architect admitted he had only driven by the property.

“When they say this is a faster way of doing it, it is like well OK, we want this thing to come in on time, but we don’t have to have this thing go up in two months,” Dirksen said of construction plans. “This is going to be a building we want to be done deliberately and carefully.”

Board members agreed they wanted a noninstitutional looking elementary school.

“I want the building to work for the setting. I want it to look like it fits in the neighborhood,” said Peggy Pesterfield, board member. “And you have to have walked the property and really done your homework to know what works.”

Each school board member listed their top two architectural firms. Upland Design was a common denominator between all seven board members. Other firms mentioned included Cope Associates Inc., Michael Brady Inc. and Red Chair Architects.

Robinson said she appreciated the quandary the firms were in in presenting plans without previous talks with the school board.

She said she thought both Red Chair Architects and Upland Design were visionary.

Pesterfield said Upland Design had an interesting design and is a known quantity. She said Upland’s work with the board on the science wing showed the firm was careful about costs, as well.

Board Chair Tom Cloud added Upland had also proven to be extremely accessible for being out of Crossville.

“They’ve worked well with us and we’ve worked well with them,” Cloud said.

Morgan applauded the firm’s commitment, saying, “For them to be a smaller firm and still compete that well —” 

“Yeah that is amazing,” Dirksen inserted.

Continued Morgan, “And that they have both their principals on the job.”

Upland’s Design included several outdoor classrooms and learning spaces.

“The lunches we had throughout the school system were a good time to talk to teachers. I asked them, ‘If you guys got to design an elementary school, and you weren’t even going to teach there, you just wanted it to belong to Cleveland City Schools, what do you want?’” Robinson said. “I heard over and over and over again ‘outdoor classrooms,’ and the ability to take our elementary kids outside in a safe place into the daylight.”

The Board of Education will soon begin talks with Upland to discuss what members want in the new school.