A year after a massive fire destroyed the oldest building on the Toppenish campus, Heritage University officials are working to wrap up negotiations so they can begin to rebuild.
And with that rebuild comes a chance to make things better than before. Current plans call for three new structures at an estimated cost of $8 million to $9 million, with some first-ever space, such as an art studio.
“The exciting thing about this is it’s an opportunity to expand the students’ offerings on campus and start to create a really interesting space,” said David Wise, newly hired vice president of marketing and communications. “If there were any positives to be taken from such a traumatic event, that’s it — this should be a wonderful enhancement to students’ educational experience at Heritage.”
The fire broke out July 8, 2012, a day when firefighters struggled with record-high temperatures as they battled flames shooting into the sky. It destroyed Petrie Hall, which was built in 1926 and had housed the old McKinley Elementary School for decades.
School was closed for only a half-day before facility crews got temporary structures in place for classrooms, Wise said. Those temporary classroom spaces will remain in place until the new construction is complete.
Right now, Heritage is still negotiating with its insurance company to see how much of the rebuilding costs will be covered. The school is also working with architects to finalize construction plans, which will include a new Petrie Hall as well as two additional structures.
Without anything set in stone, Wise was reluctant to state a price, but estimates the rebuild at that figure of $8 million or $9 million. He thinks the insurance company might cover about half of that, so the school is working to raise funds for the rest. School officials are already talking with businesses and community members to get the donations they’ll need.
Even if the fire had not happened, the school had long planned to replace Petrie.
“To say it was dated was a fair estimate. Narrow hallways, cramped spaces, dated infrastructure. ...” Wise said. “Things have been in a kind of make-do mode and kind of cramped.”
Petrie housed a large number of classrooms, as well as the school’s information technology department and bookstore.
Plans are for the new buildings to have updated classrooms, updated IT infrastructure, new student services, including the bookstore and cafeteria, and that art studio, which Heritage didn’t have before.
Preliminary estimates show that construction could be completed in as little as 10 months, “once they actually move forward,” Wise said. No start date can be set until the insurance and architect negotiations are wrapped up.
• Molly Rosbach can be reached at 509-577-7728 or firstname.lastname@example.org.