Some of Grand Av­enue School’s

Orlando Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Jeff Weiner Staff Writer jew­einer@or­lan­dosen­tinel.com or 407-420-5171

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.

RI­CARDO RAMIREZ BUXEDA/STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

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.

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