Soon-to-be vacant high school considered for Jefferson Hills community center site
A soon-to-be vacant school building could become the new home to a community center in Jefferson Hills.
At a West Jefferson Hills School Board meeting March 26, representatives from Core Architects suggested using a portion of the existing Thomas Jefferson High School for the proposed community center.
“What intrigues us about the concept of repurposing this building is, not only is it a less expensive option, but it probably would be a more responsible solution then tearing down this building and sending it to the dump,” said Ryan Pierce of Core Architects. “It preserves something that’s part of our history.”
The discussion was the first formal pitch of the idea to the district, leaders said, and there are no agreements in place for the recreation/community center to be built on the district-owned land.
Members of the Jefferson Hills Recreational Initiative envision a center that serves the needs of the entire West Jefferson Hills School District. It could include multipurpose rooms, a fitness area, an elevated track and — to stand out from the many other recreation centers in the area — a 70-yard indoor multipurpose turf field.
May marks one year since Jefferson Hills council gave the go-ahead to Core Architects to conduct a feasibility study to determine possible options and costs surrounding a community center.
The study is nearly complete, said Brian Konick, recreation board member.
Recreation board members have toured numerous centers across the area to gather information on size, offerings and cost.
“We just took this to kind of quarterback through,” Konick said. “Now, decision-makers have some data to go by.”
Two locations in Jefferson Hills have been determined to have “usable land,” Konick said.
They include the existing Thomas Jefferson High School site and land at the Practice T Golf Center property farther down Old Clairton Road, which was purchased in the last year by AUUE Inc., according to county real estate records. UPMC officials have indicated the healthcare system owns the land, where they intend to build a hospital on the lower portion near Elliot Road and Route 51.
West Jefferson Hills School District plans to open the doors to a new Thomas Jefferson High School on 161 acres of land for the 2019-20 school year.
At the March 26 school board meeting, architects presented renderings of two options they’ve drafted for the current TJ site. One included tearing down the old school building and constructing a new community center on the property with added parking in the rear.
The other included tearing down the classroom wing of the school and keeping the main and auxiliary gymnasiums to renovate. The cafeteria would be turned into a banquet room. Renderings then call for building a new structure to encompass the indoor football field. Additional parking also would be included in this proposal.
“This is not looked at as a Jefferson Hills Community Center. I mean, the obvious place to put this thing is in Jefferson Hills. But we truly believe that this is more of a district-wide benefit,” Konick told school board members. “That’s our goal, to continue the conversations.”
School board President Brian Fernandes said March 26 was the first time board members were presented with the concept.
“We have to ensure we include all three communities in anything we do,” he said, of the three municipalities making up the West Jefferson Hills School District — Jefferson Hills, Pleasant Hills and West Elizabeth.
Project cost estimates currently are around $10 million, Pierce said. That does not include site acquisition. Funding has yet to be determined. Outside funding sources are being pursued, recreation board members told the board.
Still, many discussions need to occur.
The decision, ultimately, rests with the borough — or boroughs, landowners and the public, Konick said.
Architects and Jefferson Hills recreation board members plan to present findings from the feasibility study 7 p.m. May 8 at the Jefferson Hills Borough Council meeting. The public is invited to attend.