City officials are considering turning the front of a historic school district building into a $3 million visitors center or museum, saving the structure from being entirely demolished in the construction of a new campus.
“The political will is there to do it,” Webster City Manager Wayne Sabo said. “It’s a matter of figuring out the financial means to do it.”
The Clear Creek Independent School District’s Board of Trustees late last month approved design plans for a new $45 million Clear View High School, one of many projects included in a $487 million bond issue voters approved in May 2017.
The proposed new 82,000-square-foot building would have the capacity for 350 students and would have 24 classrooms, officials said.
But the new building would come at the expense of the old one. The structure, opened in 1938, has an art deco vibe popular in government structure of the 1930s. It opened as Webster High School and has sentimental value in the community, district officials said.
The building still bears the original school’s name, Sabo said.
But some residents initially spoke out against demolishing the original building and district staff is now discussing a way to preserve the historic front of the school, officials said.
“Webster doesn’t have a museum to show off the city,” Sabo said. “This might be an opportunity to have a museum component or visitors center.”
Crews are set to begin work on the new school facility in February and the new building will be finished in August 2020, district officials said.
Houston-based PBK Architects is designing the new building, officials said.
The new school is being built near the old one, but not at the same site, officials said. So, students will continue attending classes in the old building until the new school is complete, officials said.
That gives Webster city staff and council time to consider its options before making a decision on how to preserve the art-deco front, Sabo said.
City staff members are calculating how much it might cost to complete such a project — initial estimates suggest it would be between $3 million and $4 million — and the project could be introduced before the council at a work session in March, Sabo said.
“The district’s role in this would be giving us the building,” Sabo said. “And they won’t demo the old building until the new one is built.”
But other capital projects are competing for the city’s funds and there are additional costs of operating a museum or visitors center, such as staffing and maintenance, Sabo said.
Webster’s 2018-2019 fiscal budget includes more than $45.6 million in total revenues and about $40.4 million in total expenditures, according to city documents.
The city’s five-year capital improvement plan includes about $20 million in projects, Sabo said.