The Castle Project by Bob Henderson, Head of School
The Castle project will be underway this spring! In late January the Nobles Board of Trustees held their annual retreat. Perhaps the most critical item on the agenda was to evaluate plans for the Castle, and then to decide whether to go ahead with the work this year or to delay for a future date. After careful consideration of every implication of the undertaking, the Trustees enthusiastically chose to move ahead immediately. As discussed in some detail in the most recent issue of the Nobles Bulletin, the planning process in which we have engaged with our architects (Architerra) is now complete and we have successfully grappled with the myriad complex details in this remarkable building. Construction and short-term financing costs are likely at the lowest levels we will experience for the foreseeable future, and this is an environment for savings that the Trustees feel we need to exploit. Consequently, it is now official – the school is committed to the Castle project.
This begs some obvious general questions that I hope to address for you in this forum. Most essentially, when will it start and finish? The initial work will take place over this March Break. While students are away, a new delivery entrance will be constructed on the north side of the building facing the Schoolhouse, far to the right (as you face that side of the building) of where students enter and exit. This will involve building a new loading dock on that side of the building. This is necessary because most of the early phase of the project will take place to the west of the existing building where the site must be prepared for a major addition. That area is where the current loading dock and delivery space are located, so those functions must be moved. This preliminary work should not affect students at all, but it will impact the exterior aesthetic of the north side of the building. Deliveries thereafter, until the conclusion of the entire project, will use the road that travels from the Schoolhouse to the Castle, but they will occur in off hours when students are not traveling back and forth to meals.
April and May of this school year will not see a great deal of activity other than some relatively simple site and project preparations, including the installation of fencing. Very soon after the end of classes in June, however, the project will begin in earnest. Work will proceed at a very rapid pace through the summer of 2011 and right into the winter of 2012. Throughout these months we will continue to use the Castle as always, and while there will be construction barriers and lots of activity behind them, students will not be affected (other than by some noise while they are in the building). Almost all of the work in this period will be on the site to the west for the addition to the building, and in the basement and lower levels as the operating systems for the building are reconstructed. By the spring of 2012, work will begin in earnest on the existing kitchen area, and this will require the use of a temporary kitchen for much of the final months of that school year. The temporary kitchen will be located on the lawn area in front of the north side of the building. Students will continue, however, to dine in the building as always. Most of the faculty residents of the building will move out by this time (until the project is complete) as work begins on the thorough renovation of the upstairs apartments.
Between the end of classes in late spring of 2012 and the start of school in September of 2012, the project will be completed. Through that summer work will proceed at a furious pace. We have a long relationship with our general contractor for this project, Shawmut Construction - they have completed numerous complex projects for us over the last couple of decades, always on time and on budget. They have also worked exceptionally well in a school environment, managing their employees and subcontractors efficiently and with keen attention to safety and community needs. They are confident of the schedule for this project, and they have already established a strong working relationship with Architerra. You may also be interested to know that the school employs a highly skilled “owner’s representative” as our overseer of the project and as our primary liaison with Architerra and Shawmut. The Building and Facilities Committee of the Board of Trustees will also stay closely involved throughout the undertaking.
This will be a $20 million project, and the fundraising is already underway, with encouraging early success. The outcome will be transformative for the community, as articulated in detail in a variety of forums over the last couple of years. The academic program in particular will benefit from our ability to restructure the school schedule, and the most important icon of the school will be rejuvenated for the use of students and faculty in both the near and distant futures. While construction projects are inevitably accompanied by a minimal amount of disruption and inconvenience, we are convinced that this ambitious job can be accomplished smoothly and in a 16-month window of time. It will be exciting to witness, and the result will, I am confident, make everyone in our extended community proud.