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Douglas/McGillis School, Salt Lake City

An alarming number of Utah's historic schools have been demolished. "The old building is unsafe. It would cost too much to save it," decision-makers say. The McGillis School's renovation of the historic Douglas School is a wonderful example of how old school buildings can meet the needs of modern educators and students.

On a tight timeline and budget, The McGillis School team successfully addressed many of the issues used to justify tearing down historic schools. For example, the McGillis project used center-core drilling to economically and effectively address seismic safety concerns. A wireless broadcast network eliminated the need for rewiring the building to accommodate new technologies. Sensitive alterations, including a new elevator and raised front entrance, made the school ADA accessible.

The McGillis School used the original plans for Douglas School to guide its renovation and preserve much of the building's historic fabric. The original maple floors in the halls were refinished. Drop ceilings in the classrooms were raised to expose beautiful tall windows to their full height. On the exterior, water-damaged concrete was painstakingly repaired. An unobtrusive aluminum cap on the roof's parapet wall will protect it from further damage.

More than just a great building, Douglas School is also a landmark on 1300 East and the namesake of the Douglas neighborhood. When Salt Lake City School District announced plans to sell the building, many worried it would be demolished for new development. Fortunately, The McGillis School and the Douglas Neighborhood Association shared the goal of preserving the building and its surrounding open space. With its modern amenities in a welcoming historic setting, The McGillis School offers a wonderful environment for learning and preserves a neighborhood legacy.