Some of Grand Avenue School’s
buildings are being demolished, but the fate of the landmark main building is still unclear.
A demolition crew tore down classrooms at the former Grand Avenue School in Holden Heights on Thursday, but the 90-year-old historic main building prized by preservationists is still standing — for now.
The work under way Thursday included ancillary buildings on the school property, and no decision has been made as to the future of the original structure built in 1926, said Lauren Roth, a spokeswoman for Orange County Public Schools.
Still, the sight of a wrecking crew on the school grounds was an unwelcome surprise for preservationists, who said they’ve been unable to get a firm answer about the historic building’s fate.
“They certainly are aware of the interested and adversely affected parties in this situation and, at the bare minimum, they have the obligation to respond with a plan,” said Raymond Cox, president of the Orange Preservation Trust.
Roth said the school district is waiting to find out if the city of Orlando will want the school building. The district owes the city $1.58 million in land or cash, in exchange for property the district used to build a new K-8 school in nearby Parramore.
City Commissioner Sam Ings, who has pushed for Orlando to take over the property, said his requests so far have fallen on deaf ears. A spokeswoman for Mayor Buddy Dyer said Thursday there was no update on the city’s possible acquisition of the school. “I am still very concerned because I just don’t know what’s going on, what’s happening,” Ings said.
The school’s main structure is a two-story Mediterranean Revival building that features stucco walls, a gable roof and a parapet entry with columns and an arched doorway. It was declared a historic landmark by Orlando in 1995.
The state’s historic preservation officer in 2014 urged the school district to find a new use for the facility, writing in a letter that “such architecture would be extremely difficult to replace if lost.”
Along with its sister facility, Princeton Elementary in College Park, Grand Avenue School is a relic of the land boom of the 1920s, when Orlando’s population nearly tripled, from 9,282 to 27,330. The city is now home to about 275,000 residents.
On Thursday, an excavator tore through the walls of buildings just feet away from the main school facility, exposing the colorful walls of recently shuttered classrooms, still adorned with the letters of the alphabet and other lessons.
Preservationists have been on alert since before the school, known most recently as Grand Avenue Primary Learning Centers, closed its doors permanently June 7.
Ings has argued it could serve as a library, a community heath clinic, an expansion of the Parramore Kidz Zone youth mentoring program or a new home for Nap Ford Community School, which was displaced to make way for the planned Creative Village.
The demolition of ancillary buildings at the Grand Avenue School began Thursday. The fate of the main building, an Orlando historic landmark preservationists argue should remain, is still unclear.