Renovate it and build it up: Boynton’s plan to become cultural destination
A gym rope still hangs from the pine rafters 49 feet high in the old Boynton Beach High School — a remnant of days gone by.
The 1927 school, which has sat abandoned for decades, has a big future now: It’ll be the hub of a $280 million project called Boynton Beach Town Square, transforming the downtown as a cultural destination.
Starting in late July, 13 buildings eventually will be demolished to make way for a hotel, shops, parking garages and an amphitheater across a 16.5-acre site on Boynton Beach and Seacrest boulevards. New police and fire stations, a library and City Hall will be built. Some 1,000 apartments are in the works nearby.
It’ll certainly be a destination for the public, said Thuy Shutt, assistant director for the Boynton Beach Community Redevelopment Agency. “When you have places for the public, it’s similar to cities like Charleston or Boston. That brings people downtown for jobs, to reside or to visit.”
The city gave a tour of the school construction site to the news media this week, showing the improvements so far. The exterior already wears a new coat of stucco and the paint will be the same steel gray color. The two original entrances will remain, but some of the new windows have been installed.
“We finished putting the new roof on yesterday,” said Jefferson Davis, senior superintendent for Straticon Construction Co.
The school’s former gym, which can hold 500 people, will become a rental space for business conferences, weddings and events, said Mark Hefferin, master developer for Town Square. New French doors will lead out to a patio and a park, he added.
On the second floor, the stage is gone, but graffiti from a play remains on a wall. In the middle of the room sits a swimming pool filled with water, added there to ensure the floor is structurally sound. “It weighs 17,000 pounds and it’s a load test,” Davis said.
The historical high school didn’t have an elevator, but that’s going to change with the times.
While the site will be updated, there’s also a deliberate effort to keep some features the same. So, the building’s original spiral columns, two wreaths and an urn on top remain.
The building is on the city’s register of historic places. The original architect, William Manly King, once worked with Boca’s famed architect Addison Mizner. Later he worked for the school board, and he’s credited with building 90 percent of the schools in Palm Beach County.
A previous Boynton City Commission envisioned the building as a white elephant that needed to be torn down. But a petition, protest and pressure from residents, a new vision and a new city government are credited with the turnaround.