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May 4, 2013

School plans change slightly

Peabody: Higgins project nearing council approval

PEABODY — The new Higgins Middle School won’t be on the straight and narrow.

Rather, it will be skewered, according to designer Ken DiNisco, from DiNisco Design, with one building moved to a spot where it is at an angle to the adjacent building. Connected by walkways, they create a kind of trapezoid. One of those structures will contain three stories of classrooms, the other, at two stories, will contain the administration, cafeteria, auditorium, gym and additional classrooms, among other things.

The change in the placement of the building is designed to take advantage of better “footing” for the structure. While the design is no longer symmetrical, that shouldn’t make much difference and it didn’t stop a City Council finance subcommittee from swiftly and unanimously deciding on Wednesday to endorse spending $92.6 million on the project.

A final vote on that spending is expected at the May 9 City Council meeting.

The small change in the placement of the structure will mean big savings, explained School Committee member Beverley Griffin Dunne. A test boring showed a lot of fill at one end of the footprint.

“In order to support the building they would have had to sink a pier 18 feet,” she said. Moving the structure “really does make it look a bit nicer. It’s a far better fit.” One of the two courtyards planned between the buildings will be a lot roomier, she pointed out.

The state has agreed to pick up more than 56 percent of the cost of the new school, leaving Peabody taxpayers responsible for nearly $49 million. Nevertheless, under the law, the city must first agree to spend the whole amount — hence Thursday’s vote.

The interest charged on the city’s share of the money — estimated at 4 percent — will cost Peabody an additional $36 million, bringing total local spending to $76.5 million.

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