LEXINGTON, Ky. — The original Henry Clay High School, constructed on Main Street in 1926, would once again be available for its first and highest purpose, following a board vote Monday to move the district’s central office out of the 93-year-old building.
“In many ways, this structure helped build the foundation of our community,” said Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Manny Caulk, standing in the building’s main entrance that features vaulted plaster ceilings, ornate wooden casings and an antique chandelier. “History happened in these halls as generations of Lexington residents were educated here. It’s only fitting that tomorrow’s students carry that tradition into the future.”
The Fayette County Board of Education voted unanimously Monday to authorize the purchase of a 187,000 s.f. office building from Lexmark for $10 million. Located at 450 Park Place on the Russell Cave Road side of the Lexmark campus, the building has been vacant since 2013. The cost of renovating the existing central office at 701 East Main Street would top $27 million. Constructing a comparable office building would be more than $46.6 million.
“Lexmark has been a tremendous corporate citizen in this community for decades,” Caulk said. “We’re excited to once again partner with them and be able to place a school back into inventory and acquire a suitable central office space at a fraction of the cost of new construction.”
The purchase will not be final until after the district completes several due diligence steps and receives final approval from the Kentucky Department of Education. The Lexmark building was built in 2002 will not require renovation. Separating the utilities from the rest of the Lexmark campus will require about $3.5 million in construction work, making the total project cost $13.5 million.
After the current Henry Clay High School opened in 1971, the building at 701 East Main Street was renovated to house the district’s central office administrative functions. It has not been updated since 1980, and is shown on the district’s facilities plan for a major renovation. All schools in the district have either been renovated or replaced more recently, or are in the process of being renovated or replaced.
The main street building includes a beautiful auditorium with seating for 750, but meeting space is sparse and offices are hard to find because many corridors do not connect from one area to the other. Since it was designed to be a school when the Model T was still on the road, parking is a challenge for the public.
If the project receives KDE approval, the 701 East Main Street building would go back into district inventory and would be available to house an academic program.
“After 39 years, the building is not a functional office space,” Caulk said. “But I have no doubt the legacy of excellence established in these halls in 1926 will continue for decades into the future.”
The Lexmark building is close to the Fayette County Public School warehouse at 1126 Russell Cave Road and would lend itself to consolidation of additional district support functions. The 701 East Main Street site is divided into four separate buildings that together total 145,000 s.f. on three acres. By comparison, the Lexmark building is 187,000 on 10 acres. The current central office has 123 parking spaces. The proposed new one has 400.
The district’s current facilities plan calls for two new elementary schools, a new middle school and a building for STEAM Academy. The plan also calls for major renovations of 17 facilities, including the expansion of the district’s technical centers, and wholesale renovations at Henry Clay, Lafayette, Paul Laurence Dunbar and Tates Creek high schools and three middle schools.
The new $23 million Brenda Cowan Elementary School will open in the fall of 2019, construction will begin next month on a $26.8 million permanent home for STEAM, and the district is in the process of amending its facilities plan to build a new $77 million Tates Creek High School because that will be more cost effective than renovating the existing structure.
Since the community supported a nickel property tax increase in 2007 dedicated solely to facilities, Fayette County has invested more than $450 million to build five new schools and renovate 21 others.
“We have demonstrated our commitment to renovate existing buildings while also constructing new schools to address enrollment growth,” Caulk said.