Architects Vying to Design New Watertown High School Narrowed to Finalists

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The quality of the of architects seeking to design the new Watertown High School pleased Watertown officials as well as members of the state board that chose the finalists.

The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) Designer Selection Panel met Tuesday and heard presentations from eight firms vying to be the designer for the WHS project. Three finalists were chosen.

At Wednesday’s Watertown School Building Committee meeting, Superintendent Dede Galdston said the crop of architects impressed the panel, which works with communities from around Massachusetts that have been selected to be in the state school building program.

“The Designer Selection Panel said this is the best pool of architects they have seen in quite some time,” Galdston said. “This leads us to believe that Watertown is a hot commodity and people want to work here.”

Council Vice President Vincent Piccirilli said he believes the WHS project drew a lot of interest because of the homework done by Watertown.

“It doesn’t surprise me. Look at the amount of effort we as a community put into this over the last five years. The word is out we are serious, we mean business and we have a vision,” Piccirilli said. “This is a testament to all of us — the Council, the School Committee and members of the community — who worked hard to get where we are.”

The panel, which includes 13 members appointed by the MSBA and three Watertown representatives (Galdston, Town Manager Michael Driscoll and Town Council President Mark Sideris), unanimously voted to make three firms finalists, including a familiar firm.

The finalists are: Ai3 Architects, JCJ Architecture and Jonathan Levi Architects.

Watertown hired Ai3 to work on the three elementary school projects, which have reached the design development phase. Unlike the high school project, the elementary schools are not part of the MSBA process, and will be totally funded by the Town. WHS will qualify for state reimbursement for close to half of the cost.

Among the finalists, one stood out to the panel.

“(Panel members) said Ai3’s presentation was the most thorough and best put together,” Galdston said.

Resident Elodia Thomas attended the meeting and agreed on the quality of the finalists. She added that the officials from Watertown represented the town well.

The finalists will appear again in front of the Designer Selection Panel to be interviewed. The meeting will be held on Sept. 17 at 8:30 a.m. at the MSBA offices, 40 Broad St., Ste. 500, Boston. The meeting is open to the public, but members of the public cannot comment or ask questions, Sideris said.

After the interviews, the Designer Selection Panel will rank the finalists and the group is expected to choose the firm to design WHS at the Sept. 17 meeting.

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