Planning, Community Engagement
During its first year of operations, the Big Picture Company commissioned Concordia to facilitate a community-based master plan for the future expansion of their downtown campus, the Metropolitan Center. The master planning process took place over a six month period, engaging the Met’s administrators, teachers, parents and students as well as local business, resident and other non-profit stakeholders from the South Providence community. Among the master plan’s principles was the notion that each of the four proposed schools be an individual, stand-alone building with flexible spaces and housing approximately 115 students. Equally notable was the design requirement that the Met also serve as a neighborhood center.
To accomplish these goals, Concordia located four small schools centrally within their community, placing them at opposite corners of an 8-acre site, and giving them access to newly constructed common functions which are shared with the community. Common functions include a large fitness center with a gymnasium, aerobics and weight rooms and a rock climbing wall; and a separate, independent structure containing a “black box” theater, radio studio, and video production area. Operational issues related to the joint use of the Met’s facilities are reviewed and negotiated through meetings with local community stakeholders, many of whom were involved in the development of the original master plan.
In keeping with the community-based theme of the master plan, the Met’s campus integrates local street patterns and preserves the scale of the neighborhood. At the center of the campus, a newly created “town square” provides an outdoor recreational field, performing arts space, and a festival area for both the school and community. The town square is serviced by controlled vehicular and pedestrian access from all four sides. Entrances to each stand-alone facility open onto the town square, providing access to the gymnasium, auditorium and each of the four small schools. Peter McWalters, the Rhode Island Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education commented: “The Met puts into action everything that we know works for kids. It will be a catalyst for a statewide effort to strengthen secondary education.”