City Council President Mark Siders had a big grin on his face as he held up three fingers and donned a construction helmet. On Wednesday afternoon, he and others involved with the Watertown Public Schools’ building projects gathered for the official groundbreaking at Lowell Elementary School’s renovations and expansion — the district’s third elementary school project in recent years.
The site work had already commenced at the school that overlooks Orchard Street. Like the other two elementary school projects, Lowell was designed by Ai3 Architects and the project management firm is Hill International. This time, however, the general contractor is CTA Construction.
“This is a really exciting time. I’m sure you have been through our other schools, and seen what can happen with Ai3 and their team and Hill, and now we are working with CTA,” Sideris said. “So, this is going to be a great project, as you can see we are already well underway we are looking forward to about 18 months from now cutting another ribbon and walking into this school.”
Superintendent Dede Galdston said the future is bright for Watertown’s elementary school students.
“Certainly, I must give a lot of credit to the people who worked on Building for the Future way back when, through the years, and to finally see this come to fruition is amazing,” Galdston said. “And the best is yet to come, when we get to open this school and have three brand new, basically, elementary schools for our children in Watertown so everyone has the same equal opportunity to an excellent education at the elementary level.”
She noted that the Lowell students have been split into two different interim spaces during constructions: the former St. Jude’s School in Waltham and the Phillips Building. The opening day at the renovated school is planned for September 2023.
When completed, the interior of the current Lowell School will be renovated “down to the studs,” and there will be some new additions. The most significant one will be the new media center/library which will be on the east side of the building (to the right looking from Orchard Street.
The project has its challenges, said Jeffrey Hazelwood, Principal of CTA Construction.
“It’s a challenging site. It’s a very sloped site which poses some challenges, as well,” Hazelwood said. “There is a lot of existing features we want to maintain, like the trees are obviously irreplaceable.”
As a renovation project, he said, there is always the unknown of what workers will find when they remove the walls, and get down into the foundation. The addition has its own hurdles to clear.
“It’s always a challenge marrying up additions to the old building, to make sure when it’s done that it looks like it has always been there,” Hazelwood said.
CTA took on the challenges of the Lowell project, Hazelwood said, in part because the firm has worked well before with Ai3 and with Hill International. CTA also worked in Watertown about 20 years ago, building the Public Works Facility near the school on Orchard Street.
“We are always up for a challenge,” he said. “We like challenging projects because I think it brings out the best in people.”