In the race to attract new residents, the City of Farmington Hills hopes to take a giant step forward with the repurposing of Harrison High School as a community center.
During a Tuesday Farmington school board meeting, Hills Mayor Ken Massey introduced plans developed by consultants who have been studying the property on 12 Mile Road since July of 2017. He said city officials started talking about Harrison after trustees voted to close the school at the end of the 2018-19 school year.
“Our decision was we want to preserve Harrison High School for a number of reasons,” the life-long Farmington Hills resident said. “We want to preserve the legacy that is Harrison High School. We want to preserve the taxpayers’ investment made over the years in that facility… We also want to take this forward so we have a state of the art opportunity to up our game.”
Architect George Kacan of Sidock Group, Inc. presented renderings that assume the city would occupy the 240,000-square-foot building’s first two floors, with school facilities on the third floor. Two east-side entrances would be repurposed to clearly identify separate entrances to the proposed activities center and theater.
Kacan said consultants were asked to create a “wow” entrance for visitors. The two-story lobby could house an art gallery or host a dinner and theater experience. Activities space includes gymnasiums and a swimming pool with a party room and water slide – “just a really fun place for families and kids to go,” he said.
A traffic lane in front of the entrances curves to create drop-off locations, and the proposal would add about 400 parking spaces to the east-side lot. Football and baseball fields and tennis courts would remain in place.
The city plans to keep the Costick Activities Center open with expanded programming for senior citizens, city manager David Boyer said. The new activities center and programs would be open for use by any resident of the Farmington Public Schools district, with some free activities and others requiring a fee.
“This would give us opportunities to take what we’re doing on a small scale at the Costick Center and really explode it for our community,” Department of Special Services director Ellen Schnackel added.
The remodel will cost between $19 million and $20 million. The city offered a $1 purchase price in its Letter of Intent, delivered last month to school officials. Boyer said city officials are working on a plan to finance the project.
District resident Jenn Garland, who also serves on the district-wide PTA (Parent Teacher Association) board, said she was impressed with the plans but “this is just the beginning of the conversation.”
“I was part of the bond committee, so it is personally satisfying to see the fruition of the things we discussed,” she added.