Saturday, July 13, 2019

Grand Avenue Community Center Meeting

The Grand Avenue School was built in 1926 and designated a historic landmark by the City of Orlando in 1995. It features Mediterranean Revival architecture. The historic Grand Avenue School closed its doors in 2017, after 90 years. The school served 227 students from pre-K to grade 2 each year and upon its closure, when staff were asked to leave the building, one woman took it upon herself to make efforts to preserve some of the history packed away in boxes. When the school closed there was fear that the building would be demolished. A committee was formed to try and stop that from happening.

Segregation was struck down by a Supreme Court Order in 1954 but Orange County was slow to comply. Orange County figured making black students file paperwork to attend white schools, while stalling on rezoning and busing, would suffice. One dad wanted his adopted daughter, who was black, to attend an all white school. He pressured the school board to allow her to attend but the school board responded that she was too smart to attend their all white school as well, so they graduated her at the age of 12. This resulted in another court case demanding desegregation in Orange County Schools.

In 1971, a judge threatened to hold the entire school board in contempt after missing a court-imposed deadline for filing an outline of their plans to desegregate. The school board dragged its feet since there was no real repercussions for non-compliance. State and federal funding might be cut, but it never was. In 2007, Grand Avenue Primary Learning Center was 80 percent black. At this meeting where some members had attended Grand Avenue, the memory of the school board ignoring desegregation was visceral. Tempers still flare about the injustice. Integration was extremely divisive in the South, and there was a reluctance to tear the community apart over it. Silence and inaction became a way of ignoring the problem.

The now empty Grand Avenue Elementary School will be preserved and repurposed as a youth and family recreation center. The Borrelli + Partners’ design team has been selected for the design-build contract to renovate and construct the City of Orlando’s Grand Avenue Community Center. As a historical landmark, any exterior work or demolition is subject to a Historic Preservation process. The $17 million budget includes renovations of the existing 29,844 SF school building and 66,000 SF of new construction. The Community Center will house multiple programs including the Parramore Kidz Zone, After-School All-Stars, Orlando Pottery Studio, as well as a MAC gym and yoga studio. This committee has been meeting to help guide an infusion of the school and community's history into the public art that will adorn its walls.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

No comments: