by Kevin Dicciani

Two variances were unanimously supported by the board of the Chestnut Hill Community Association at its Feb. 26 meeting.

The first concerned the restoration of the second floor of the McCarty Gallery, 7733 Winston Rd., so that it can be used to construct two apartments, and the second, a zoning and use variance for Springside Chestnut Hill Academy to demolish and construct new structures and additions on its Lower School campus, 8000 Cherokee Street.

Larry McEwen, vice president for the physical division, presented both variances and began by laying out the details of the McCarty Gallery variance. The gallery, formerly a one-floor building, suffered serious damage when the roof collapsed in the winter of 2013-14. The property owners, Mark and Susan McCarty, filed for a zoning adjustment to allow them to restore the building and construct a second floor, as they believed it would be more compatible with current neighborhood uses.

Currently, zoning classifications require the first floor of the building to be of commercial use, but limited residential use to one unit. The variance allows for the construction, now taking place, of the second floor, wherein two apartments with one bedroom each will be built.

“We all looked at it and felt that, having a second unit built in that building would not produce any adverse impact on the surrounding neighborhood,” McEwen said.

The support of the variance comes with two requests, rather than requirements, McEwen said. They are that, one, the outdoor deck of the rear unit be located over the garage instead of in the back of the gallery, and, two, that the sidewalk in front of the property be repaired in appropriate fashion.

McEwen said neighbors did not raise any objections to the reconstruction.

Next, Maarten Pesch, of the architectural firm Wallace Roberts and Todd, presented its master plan for the reconstruction of SCH’s Lower School campus.

Pesch said the plan includes building a three-story field house that will serve as the lower school for boys and girls in kindergarten through fourth grade. It will serve as the centerpiece for the school’s long-range plan, which is to unite the lower and middle schools on the site of what was previously used for Springside School, and relocate the upper school to where Chestnut Hill Academy used to be, although there will still be some shared use of facilities.

The lower school will be furnished with two wings – one for boys, the other for girls. The new campus also will have a common area, a service vestibule, new brick walkways, a dining area, and, the existing gymnasium will be also converted into a fixed-seat auditorium. The common theme will be wood and stone.

“Stone, barn-like structures,” Pesch said.

Pesch said the entire plan was modeled to “improve the efficiency of the school.”

Also included in the plans is the demolition of a portion of a wing attached to the lower school for girls, and the removal of a residential structure that is currently unoccupied.

Pesch said the rebuilding of the new combined lower school that is connected to the woods and to the pathways will “take the youngest students on campus and move them away from traffic and parking, and connect them to the natural environment so that sciences and arts can all benefit.”

The parking lot currently in use, Pesch said, would move to the front of the campus to allow for more visibility and the possibility of its being used for the adjacent athletic fields. To combat storm water runoff, the new lots will be paved to be porous, with various rain gardens and cisterns. The amount of parking spaces may decrease, but will not generally be altered too dramatically. The parking lot on the Cherokee campus, which was recently built, will remain.

Another large component of the project was circulation, Pesch said. By moving all of the lower and middle school students to one campus – the only students who are bused – it will avoid the issue of buses traveling back and forth from each campus, thus creating one central area for drop-off and pick-up, which will reduce traffic and increase safety.

Furthermore, having realized the difficulty of the intersection and the traffic between the two campuses (Willow Grove and Cherokee streets), the new scenario will reduce cross-traffic, car idling on public streets, and allow for more room for parental pick-ups.

Frank Aloise, the chief financial officer at SCH, joined Pesch at the end of the presentation.

As far as neighbors are concerned, Aloise said the school has been engaged in discussion with them and and has hosted meetings at which they were present.

“The school is in a good position with the neighbors,” Aloise said.

Aloise said the school is in the midst of fundraising for the project, having already reached half its total goal of roughly $40 million. He said the total “brick and mortar” investment for the entire master plan is around $150 million.

The project will take place over a 15- to 16- month period, with the intention of having it completed by the beginning of the following school year. Pesch said the school hopes to break ground in spring 2016.