AHS Annex to get $11M update; Hormel Foundation to provide $8.7M for renovation, construction

Published 2:20 pm Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The tempo of music programming at Austin Public Schools  picked up Wednesday when it was announced the district, The Hormel Foundation and MacPhail Center for Music will partner on an $11 million plan to renovate and create new music space at the Austin High School Annex.

The space, which includes the construction of a second story onto a portion of the annex, will house both the high school music programs and Austin’s MacPhail Center for Music.

The Hormel Foundation will provide $8.7 million to the project, said Mark Stotts, executive director of finance and operations for the district. The district will pay the balance. With interest and other costs, the total project cost will reach about $14.5 million, he said.

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The foundation gave its final approval of the plan on Tuesday.

Gary Ray, chairman of The Hormel Foundation.

“The Hormel Foundation knows of the strong culture of music within our city that has touched on the lives of many individuals,” said Gary Ray, chairman of The Hormel Foundation. “The MacPhail program is a way of enhancing that great opportunity for students and adults of all ages for development of music within the community, and keep that strong culture alive at a new level.”

Superintendent of Schools Dave Krenz said the idea grew from a feasibility study done years ago to determine a level of interest in music instruction with MacPhail.

“They found that people really wanted MacPhail to be associated in some way in the schools.”

That led to a current partnership with MacPhail, which comes into the schools for different projects.

Krenz added that there have been tours of other music facilities to help develop a framework for the project.

“We have had outstanding music programs for years; this project will allow us to take that to a new level,” Krenz said.

“It’s very exciting,” agreed Paul Babcock, president and chief operating officer at MacPhail. The depth of the partnership that has already developed in Austin schools, and now a facility that is built expressly for music instruction, “is unique.”

“In fact, I have talked to colleagues across the country; they’ve never heard of anything like this before, anywhere in the country,” he said.

This project includes a 13,750-square-foot second floor addition and 17,850 square feet of alterations to the annex. The second story will not encompass the entire building footprint, but will be located toward the east half of the building, facing Fourth Street Northwest.

The renovation of the building’s street level will also be done toward the east half of the building. ATS&R architects from Golden Valley will oversee the design. The wood shop, buildings and grounds office, and shipping and receiving areas, all located to the west end, will remain.

Superintendent of Schools Dave Krenz

The program for MacPhail will be located in the renovated space and will include 11 rooms and instruction studios of various sizes to support individual lessons and ensemble training, music therapy, early childhood music classes and staff offices. The center will bring two administrators and 13 teachers.

The Austin High School music space will include facilities for band, orchestra and choir, as well as a music library, practice rooms and storage rooms.

A percussion instruction studio, recording studio, and a large performance classroom will be shared by both programs.

John Alberts, executive director of educational services for the district, said bringing MacPhail into the district was a “true augment” to the music curriculum.

He added that the high school’s three music directors — Christoph Dundas, band; Brian Johnson, choir; and Gene Schott, orchestra — are excited about the changes and will be actively involved in the planning.

“This remarkable new music facility will reflect the strong collaboration that has developed between MacPhail, Austin Public Schools and The Hormel Foundation. It is a testament to the value that Austin places on exceptional arts learning opportunities for the community’s students and residents,” said Kyle Carpenter, MacPhail CEO.

The work will be financed by Austin Public Schools over a 15-year period, said Stotts. Financing will come from a lease-purchase agreement levy and capital facilities bonds; no referendum process will be used. Bidding of the project is expected to be done this fall.

Renovations of the annex are slated to begin in February 2019.  Construction of the second floor addition is expected to begin in spring 2019.

The curricular partnership between MacPhail and Austin schools’ music programs benefits 1,200 students enrolled in grades 5-12. The MacPhail programs currently reach 1,350 students of all ages, including adults. The center, currently leasing space at Riverland Community College, will move it entire program to the annex location.

The project will need the approval of the Minnesota Department of Education, as any project over $500,000 does, said Stotts.