SIMPSONVILLE, SC (AP) – Old school meets modern has literal meaning in Simpsonville, as the city works on renovating the old high school that houses its arts center.
The facelift of the Simpsonville Arts Center is slated for completion in December, bringing with it an upgraded auditorium, new windows, fresh woodwork to match the original and updated plumbing, electrical and mechanical systems. Initial plans to reopen the facility in October have moved to December as the city adds to the finishes and contractors battle weather and material delays.
“We added things, so it’s added to the length of the contract,” said Simpsonville administrator Dianna Gracely. “But I’d rather get it right and it takes a little longer than rushing around and not having those spectacular finishes.”
These finishes include twin chandeliers hanging from the vaulted ceiling of the newly created lobby, a wall of stained glass to match the colors of the city logo, and lighted seating in the auditorium. It also includes refinishing the original hardwood floors and repairing the proscenium around the stage.
“They really tried to preserve the historical aspect as much as possible,” said project manager Gina Labozetta. “Overall I think the design team did a really good job of sticking to the historical elements but modernizing it to be more of a 21st century art center. But it’s still a bit quaint, remembering the building’s roots.
The foreground – the wooden trim on the wall around the stage – is Labozetta’s favorite part of the building. It matches one of the deteriorating exterior door frames that a carpenter has been commissioned to restore.
The old Simpsonville Elementary School, built on Academy Street in 1939, has very good bones, she said. This is something that the architect DP3 Michael Taylor wanted to emphasize, preserve and replicate as much as possible.
“We went through the state history and archives process to make sure we were getting windows that were replicas of the originals,” Taylor said.
The original paneling receives a new coat of paint and the trim is handcrafted to match what was used during the construction of the school. The bathrooms were the only thing that had been affected in the past 20 years, Labozetta said.
Almost everything else had to be updated or added, such as the audiovisual booth at the rear of the auditorium and the hall footprint. The design team designed a lobby with concessions and a ticket office where there was previously open space, she said.
There’s also a small addition behind the stage that houses the sprinkler system, access to the basement green room, and actor prep areas.
The project was approved in 2019 with an initial Phase 1 cost estimate of $ 2.4 million. Work began in February after delays compared to the original schedule which called for a start date in the spring of 2020.
Simpsonville received a $ 500,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission and a donation of $ 75,000 from a winner of the Megamillions lottery for arts center renovations. It will be a second home for Pelzer’s Mill Town Players and the gymnasium will also be updated.