Hidden River
Pictured is the new Summit Avenue entrance being proposed as part of the $54 million renovation and expansion of Hidden River Middle School, 1700 Summit Ave.

A $54 million renovation and expansion project at Hidden River Middle School, 1700 Summit Ave., will get underway in summer 2024 and wrap up by fall 2025. During construction, middle school students will attend classes at the former Wilson School building at 631 N. Albert St. in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood.

Hidden River
A closer look at the solar fins being suggested on a new two-story glass addition on the Summit side of the school that will create a secure building entrance and house administrative offices.

The Macalester-Groveland Community Council’s Housing and Land Use Committee got its first look at the renovation plans on November 30. Saint Paul Public Schools project manager Vaugh Kelly and architect Paul Lawton from DLR Group outlined the plans for Hidden River, which was known for many years as Ramsey.

The school’s redesign should be done by the end of the year. Construction documents will be prepared between February and May 2023, and bids will be sought beginning in June.

Meanwhile, work 2 miles away at Wilson will take place during the 2023-2024 school year to prepare it for use as a middle school. Wilson most recently housed the LEAP Academy for English language learners. LEAP is moving to the former John A. Johnson Elementary School in the Payne-Phalen neighborhood next fall.

“Students will spend one year at Wilson, and then will be back at Hidden River,” Kelly said.

The oldest part of the Hidden River building was constructed in 1926, with additions built in the 1970s and 1990s. Much of the debate on November 30 centered on changes on the Summit side of the school, where a new two-story glass addition will create a secure building entrance and house administrative offices.

Another view of the proposed new look of Hidden River from Summit, with parking lot moved from along Grand Avenue to the greeen space at Summit and Cambridge Street.

Plans call for moving the current school parking lot along Grand to the green space at Summit and Cambridge Street, and turning the current parking lot into a sports court. Bike parking would be near the new lot. Much of the limestone retaining wall along the school’s Summit side would be removed.

The new entrance and removal of the retaining wall were questioned by committee members Marc Manderscheid and Jack Fei. They said the new architecture would not fit with Summit’s historic character. Fei said the design would clash with the building’s existing brick exterior. Manderscheid called placement of a new parking lot along Summit a “desecration.”

Other committee members said they liked the site plan and design of the building addition, and that moving the parking lot away from Grand made sense. Because the school is in the Summit Avenue West Historic District, the Saint Paul Heritage Preservation Commission will have to approve the plans. The HPC is expected to discuss the addition on December 19.

The current school is 82,322 square feet, and plans call for 9,613 square feet of new space. Lawton and Kelly explained that the school would be renovated throughout. Along with the two-story addition, the project will include creating more flexible classroom spaces, relocating lockers and providing teacher prep areas. The south entrance to the building would be closed off.

The work will also include renovating the kitchen, creating new restrooms, updating the gym and cafeteria, and moving the media center to the basement, which will also be renovated.

HVAC, electrical and other systems will be replaced, along with windows. A geothermal heating and cooling system will be installed. The west parking lot will be improved, and part of the roof will be replaced.

Learn more about the construction project, including a photo gallery, by visiting  spps.org/hiddenriver-builds.

— Jane McClure


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