Pica + Sullivan tapped to redesign Sacred Heart campus

City officials last week got their first glimpse at plans for a campus makeover at Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy. The private, all-girls Catholic high school on St. Katherine Drive has hired Pica + Sullivan, a Los Angeles firm, to design a four-phase master plan for the historic campus that will include a new parking structure, new auditorium, an expanded high school building and new tennis courts.

Pica + Sullivan co-founder Maureen Sullivan on Feb. 2 submitted the school’s master plan to the Design Commission for an informal design review, and has applied to the Planning Commission for a conditional use permit, variance and tree removal approval.

Commissioner Ted Vavoulis said the commission will be looking at the impact of the project as a whole, and from there will be able to make recommendations for the Planning Commission to consider when evaluating the project.

“We’ll look at it from 1,000 feet up, look at the overall layout and see if anyone has any issues,” he said.

The first phase of the plan is to replace the school’s existing parking lot with a four-level structure with 227 parking spaces. Sullivan told the commission that her firm hopes to start construction after the conclusion of the 2012 school year.

The remaining improvements would be made over a span of at least four years, Sullivan said. After the parking structure is complete, work is expected to start on a 42,700-square-foot facility with a 512-seat auditorium and classrooms, to be built on the site of the existing auditorium. Next, the west wing of the main high school building would be expanded, adding 13,000 square feet to the facility. The final phase is the installation of unlit tennis courts on a corner of the campus near Palmerstone Drive.

Lisa Muñoz Bruchey, the academy’s communications director, said in an email that the school had been planning a campus upgrade for some time.

“Over the last several years, our school leadership went through a strategic planning process that looked at ways that we can continue to provide our young women with a superior Catholic, Dominican education,” she said. “Part of that is ensuring that our facilities meet the demands of the 21st century classroom.”

Bruchey said that the campus upgrades are meant to improve the quality of education that the school provides, more than growing the student body or otherwise changing the character of the school.

“We want to make sure that some of the existing programs that we have, like our arts programs, our humanities offerings, things like that, can really be supported in better facilities than we currently have,” she said. “It's also important for us to be good stewards of our historic property and good neighbors to those who share the hill with us.”

Bruchey said that although the school is still too early in the planning process to determine an overall cost for its master plan, they anticipate being able to fund it through philanthropic support.

Maureen Sullivan said that the firm is looking forward to creating a plan that preserved the historic character of the school — founded in 1931 in the former Flintridge Hotel — while also modernizing its facilities.

“We obviously are really mindful of that fact that it’s beautiful classical Spanish architecture up there by Myron Hunt,” she said. “So on the inside they would have state-of-the-art facilities, and on the outside for scale and architecture we’d be very respectful of the context of the site.”

Pica + Sullivan previously completed a campus master plan for Mayfield Senior School, and designed new arts, humanities and science buildings for the Westridge School. Both schools are located in Pasadena.

Sullivan said that while the plans are still very much in their preliminary form, and could undergo significant changes on their way to completion, she is excited about the project.

“The Dominican Sisters are always telling us…that they are good neighbors, and they want to continue to be good neighbors,” she said. “So it’s challenging and fun to make improvements to facilities, but really making sure we are very contextual, because we’re on this beautiful hill.”

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