The new Kepler Neighborhood School building in downtown Fresno is almost ready for students and teachers.
Construction workers on Wednesday were installing lights, finishing up the floors and tightening the loose odds and ends around the old 24,000-square-foot Parker-Nash building at Broadway and Stanislaus streets for a March 30 grand opening. The school, which currently occupies the education complex for Cornerstone Church on Fulton Street, plans to begin operating out of the building by April 18.
“The facility itself is an upgrade…maximizing our students’ educational environment,” said principal Christine Montanez. “We’re really looking forward to having the extra space.”
Work on the long vacant building owned by developer Cliff Tutelian started last April. Tutelian bought the property in 2007, boarded it up and hung on to it. When a “build to suit” sign went up on the building more than a year ago, Kepler officials – who looked at 38 possible sites – jumped on a chance to open their school there.
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The brick building, which is on the Local Register of Historic Resources, was built in 1913 as the Case Garage, a local dealership for Case automobiles and Adams trucks, according to the city’s Historic Preservation Commission. The building’s namesake came from R.J. “Dick” Parker who opened his Nash dealership on the property in the early 1950s.
Tutelian kept the shell of the building with its beautiful arched windows, its wood columns and terra-cotta roof tiles, but the inside is all new.
“We built a whole new building inside to help hold up the outside, said Alex Mellor, marketing director for Tutelian Development Company.
Some of the brick is visible from inside the new offices and classrooms, but fresh walls were constructed to create wide hallways on the first and second floors and the school’s many rooms. The first floor will have administrative offices, a teacher’s lounge, a multipurpose room, library, tutoring rooms and pre-K through fifth grade classrooms.
The middle school, grades six through eight, will operate on the second floor. There will also be two science labs and a drama rehearsal room. The building will have 37,000 square feet of usable space, double the amount Kepler currently has.
Another plus for the school is a play area across the street. Grass was laid out on the lot across the street from the school and play equipment will soon be installed.
“It makes everything look so much more picturesque and not gritty or urban,” Mellor said. “It’s nice to have patches of greenery.”