The Northside High School building on Vollintine Avenue has been without a school for years. Earlier in 2020, the last user – Shelby County School food services – moved out.
As of fall 2020, the building has been sold to Northside Renaissance, Inc., a nonprofit organization of community and neighborhood leaders, Northside alumni, and concerned citizens. Starting this month, environmental abatement work will begin, including safely removing asbestos and creating other safety protocols.
“Beginning the environmental abatement process just means we are one step closer to re-opening this unique building for mixed-use in support of North Memphis’ revitalization,” said Northside Renaissance Inc. board chair Quincey Morris. “At the same time as we work on clearing environmental concerns, we will be actively engaging and lifting up the many voices of our many stakeholders, especially nearby residents and alumni of the school.”
In 2018, a private philanthropic source funded Neighborhood Preservation, Inc. (NPI) to commission a study by world-renowned architecture firm – Studio Gang of Chicago – on possible reuses of the 270,000 square-foot school building. Here’s the almost 200-page report that Studio Gang completed in consultation with a broad range of community input throughout 2017 and into 2018. The report was to consider possibilities, not prescribe ideas. Northside Renaissance, Inc. is actively working on plans to reactivate the building to serve as an anchor for community stability and revitalization.
Studio Gang wrote in its plan: “The Neighborhood Schools Reuse Concept proposes how two closed public schools in North Memphis can be repurposed into hubs of educational and economic opportunity for all ages that support inclusive community development. The Concept positions Northside High School and Klondike Elementary as the cornerstones of a 24-acre ‘community campus’ that ties together and expands on nearby public assets, helping community members leverage their neighborhoods’ existing strengths to power their future.
“Northside High School, once a popular technical school, is repurposed as an employment resource center that houses job- and skills-training programs, a library, small-scale manufacturing space, and an incubator for local entrepreneurs and artists. The adjacent Klondike Elementary draws on the success of its current charter preschool to become a hub for early learning, with additional classrooms repurposed as office space for local nonprofits and small businesses as well as a neighborhood café.
“The plan also proposes how investing in the public assets surrounding the schools can lead to a thriving community campus. At North Branch Library, new outdoor learning areas and gardens and a co-op commercial kitchen expand opportunities for experiential learning. In the northeast portion of the site, Klondike Park becomes a center for wellness and recreation with upgraded athletic fields, gathering spaces, and a new Play Path that connects it with the neighboring community center and public pool.
“Beyond Memphis, the Concept’s practices and principles—which take an incremental approach to inclusive growth—provide relevant ideas for other communities facing school closure and related challenges.”
The community at large is invited to a public Zoom meeting Wednesday, July 14 at 4:30 pm.
Public Zoom meeting – Northside Renaissance. Join Zoom Meeting https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82667393713?pwd=eW5RaDRILzZYQTB5QmcrQzBGcG1idz09 Meeting ID: 826 6739 3713 Passcode: 532198 One tap mobile +16465588656,,82667393713#,,,,*532198# US (New York) +13017158592,,82667393713#,,,,*532198# US (Washington DC) Dial by your location +1 646 558 8656 US (New York) +1 301 715 8592 US (Washington DC) +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago) +1 669 900 9128 US (San Jose) +1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma) +1 346 248 7799 US (Houston) Meeting ID: 826 6739 3713 Passcode: 532198 Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kCn4F9pll
To sign up for further updates on progress of the Northside redevelopment, click here. Interested parties can also text “northside” to 21000 to sign up for updates.