Whitefish Bay — Dominican High School broke ground Monday, May 4, on a $4.5 million renovation project that will transform the front entrance of the 59-year-old building.
The most noticeable renovation includes a rethinking of the building's main entrance, which will be the doors at the northwest corner of the parking lot. Although the new entrance will be tucked further back from Silver Spring Drive, the new glass, two-story atrium — accented by the school's logo —will be more noticeable than the school's current entrance. The Dominican logo will also be lit at night.
The doors at the new corner entrance will shift from the west side of the corner to a new building addition on the north side of the corner. A double-door entrance will create a secure vestibule where visitors will need to be buzzed in to the second set of doors. The main administrative offices will also be relocated to the new entrance area.
The new two-story atrium will not only bring more light into the school, but it will also create a connection between the two levels of the building, said Greg Uhen, president of Eppstein Uhen Architects, which has designed the project.
"As you are walking through the center portion, students will be able to look up, and students on the second level will be able to look down," he said. "It will connect the two floors and really makes it more of a main space."
Construction is expected to be completed in December.
The renovations will make the main entrance, auditoriums and restrooms accessible to people with disabilities. A wheelchair ramp will be installed at the main entrance, and a wheelchair lift will provide access to the auditorium.
The auditorium will also see new seating, flooring and lighting updates, and the cafeteria will be remodeled with different types of seating options found in coffee shops, such as bar counter seating along the windows.
"Cafeterias aren't just for eating anymore; they're used for learning and socializing," said Chris Michaud, a DHS alum who helped design the interior renovations through his role at Eppstein Uhen. "As students get older, the coffee shop culture is more appealing to them."
The school's parking lot will be closed for the entire summer, as the lot is paved and the grounds are landscaped. The building's infrastructure and heating system will also be updated.
Dominican High School launched its Knight Vision fundraising campaign in June 2014 with a goal of raising $5 million, which was quickly met in a matter of months. The fundraising drive eventually raised more than $5.4 million in less than a year. Of that total, $500,000 will go toward increasing the school's endowment to fund additional student scholarships.
The remaining $400,000 will go toward the second phase of the campaign, which will include expanded parking on Bay Ridge Avenue; handicap-accessible bathroom stalls in the academic wings; enhanced technology in the library; heating upgrades and window replacements in classrooms; faculty lounge renovations; and additional endowment growth. These projects will be undertaken in the future as part of a second fundraising campaign.
Dominican President Leanne Giese said the campaign is the most ambitious fundraising endeavor in the school's nearly 60-year history. Support for the campaign projects has come from alumni, current families, past parents and foundations including PAVE, the Windhover Foundation and the Fleck Foundation.
"The support we have received for our Knight Vision capital campaign has surpassed all expectations," Giese said. "Our entire Dominican community is thrilled and excited about the updates and renovations included in this project as well as the positive impact they will have on our future success. We are truly grateful to everyone who helped make this vision a reality."
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