Great Falls High Under Attack

At the suggestion that Great Falls High School is under attack by our school district administration, some E-City Beat commenters have asked if the Great Falls School District’s actions are believed to be intentional. Whether by intent, or simple ignorance I believe Great Falls High School is threatened and here is why.

  • In 2012 the Historic school’s North Campus was placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the National Park Service as a Historic District. The Historic District includes only the original structure and the original four block campus. The State Historic Preservation Office and the Montana Historic Advisory Commission which approved the National Register listing were very clear that the campus site was as important as the building and Memorial Stadium to the historic context development of Great Falls High. The District’s ill-advised plan to remove a considerable portion of the beautiful Northeast corner of the original campus for a blacktop parking lot is a direct affront to the historic integrity of the Original Campus and surrounding neighborhood. I suppose Trustee Brantley, who lives directly across 20th Street from the planned parking lot won’t mind the garbage carried by the prevailing wind and deposited in his front yard. Since he supports the District’s misguided plan, I guess that would be poetic justice?
  • To further add insult to injury, the District’s plan is to pave a roadway between the original Great Falls High structure and Memorial Stadium to facilitate firetruck access to the West side of the school. More asphalt paving. Fire protection is important, but given that, why doesn’t the District’s plan include a fire sprinkler system for the original building? Something proven to save lives. The uninspired design of the HUB and ancillary uses will include a fire sprinkler system as mandated by code, and so that the old and new buildings can be classified as two separate structures, there will have to be a fire-rated separation between the two, fire doors and removal of existing windows on the South side of the historic structure.
  • In order to scrounge a few more parking spaces, the District’s destructive plan is to remove the almost 90 year old brick and wrought iron Stadium fence behind the South scoreboard.
  • Then comes the decision to close 4th Avenue North to pedestrian traffic. So if you live, or if you park east of Great Falls High for a football game, you will either have to walk up to 2nd Avenue South, or down to 5th Avenue South to navigate your way to Memorial Stadium. Even the less that ideal design created by the original Master Plan made the connect between the North and South Campuses via an overhead sky bridge. An even better connection, considering the 34 feet of grade drop along 4th Avenue South between 20th and 18th Streets, would be beneath a pedestrian plaza. Wow, and we wouldn’t have to spend $3M on a Bozeman and a Seattle architectural firm.
  • Finally, the correct design solution to provide additional parking at Great Falls High is to use the entire one block Practice Field that now only exists to accommodate the Track and Field events, discus, javelin, hammer throw and shot put. Those events could take place at Kranz Park on a softball field that could serve multiple uses. A place for the Great Falls High softball team and a summer baseball field for the neighborhood kids.

Buying small neighborhood single family zoned lots, like the Campfire property and spending about $22,000 per parking stall, if zoning laws are followed is a poor use of taxpayer funds.

“Buying small neighborhood single family zoned lots, like the Campfire property and spending about $22,000 per parking stall, if zoning laws are followed is a poor use of taxpayer funds.”

It’s not too late to rethink these issues and allow community input. We can come up with a better plan.

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Philip M. Faccendahttp://www.straymoose.com
Philip M. Faccenda is an AIA award-winning architect and planner. He is the Editor-in-Chief of E-City Beat.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Nevermind the fact that they could easily triple the parking if they built a multi level parking garage where the existing parking lot is… Maintence is covered by reminding students that driving is a PRIVELAGE not a RIGHT and charging for parking passes with seniors getting first dibs.

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