Coconut Grove

Coconut Grove

Ransom Everglades upper school poised for major renovations

This architect’s rendering shows the planned buildings highlighted in red. A new quad would go between the STEM and fine arts buildings.
This architect’s rendering shows the planned buildings highlighted in red. A new quad would go between the STEM and fine arts buildings.
Bowie Gridley Architects/Touzet Studio

A prestigious independent Miami prep school wants to do a major campus makeover by razing several buildings to consolidate administration offices in a new center, build science-and-tech-ready classroom building and redo its internal traffic flow.

One of the city’s development advisory boards has given its blessing to plans for Ransom Everglades’ upper school, 3575 Main Highway, with one important caveat — that the school offer suggestions on how to ease the daily traffic jams near the palatial campus.

Founded in 1903 beneath the canopy along the shores of Biscayne Bay, the college prep school wants to tear down seven older buildings, many built in the 1940s, and replace them with two modern classroom buildings and an administration center to house departments currently spread out among several smaller buildings.

Miami’s Urban Development Review Board, which serves as an advisory group to the city’s planning director, recommended approval of the master plan, which would be implemented over the next decade. It will now go to the city’s March 19 zoning appeals board meeting, which will pass its recommendation on to the City Commission.

Commission approval on two readings is needed before the proposed plan becomes the road map for construction during the next 10 to 15 years.

The plan is about modernization and consolidation, not expanding the student population, said Ellen Moceri, head of the school. Ransom Everglades wants to build classrooms equipped for lessons in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM fields.

“The learning spaces now are not the best for 21st-century learning,” she said. “We want to build a STEM building the students can come and interact with each other.”

An average of about 615 students attend the co-educational upper school each year.

The plan includes about 16,000 square feet of additional green space and fewer parking spaces. Two historic buildings, the pagoda and the old wooden cottage, will remain untouched.

Zoning requirements call for a minimum of 197 parking spaces. The school now has 286, but it plans to decrease that to 210, with the option of adding more ground-level or underground parking if needed.

Amy Huber, the attorney representing the school, wrote in an email that the review board had three conditions attached to its recommendation:

Further review if the school chooses to construct above-grade parking

Tie parking spaces to the school’s daily population

Provide suggestions for reducing traffic congestion on Main Highway

Landscape architect Gerald Marston sits on the development review board and lives about five blocks away from Ransom Everglades. He said Friday he is always concerned about the heavy morning traffic created by commuters who want to avoid U.S. 1 and parents dropping off their kids at Ransom Everglades and the two campuses of Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart, a Catholic all-girls school. Police are in the area directing early morning traffic,

While Marston noted that all three campuses should work on ways to ease the congestion, he praised Ransom Everglades’ intentions to quicken the flow of vehicles on campus.

“They’re going to improve circulation inside and find a way to not tie up traffic on Main Highway,” he said.

The proposed upgrades are the most recent in a string of physical improvements to the two campuses in the past 15 years.

In 2010, the school started plans to build a $7-million aquatic center on its campus. The middle school underwent a major renovation in 2008, and the upper school’s performing arts building was built around 2000.

Follow @joeflech on Twitter.

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