By Ananth Sampathkumar, Partner NDNY Architecture + Design
Middle School 297 NYC moved into its new location at 75 Morton Street this fall. The school officially opened in 2017 and had been sharing space with The Clinton School near Union Square for a year, while the building was under construction. In the mid 2000’s, parent groups banded together to rally for a new middle school in the West Village and the building at 75 Morton Street seemed to be a good location for it. The seven-storey structure had been owned and occupied by the State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPDD). The building had to be transferred to the Department of Education before any work could begin. The transfer was completed in 2012 and work began on adaptively converting the building for its new purpose. ‘75 Morton Community Alliance’ was the official coalition of interested families that worked with Community Board 2, Department of Education and the School Construction Authority to provide input not only on the design of the building, but also the curriculum for the new middle school.
The original building dates back to 1919 and it was intended for offices and storage. The structure had undergone a number of renovations over the years. Ciardullo Architecture Planning were the architects while DeMatteis Construction Corporation were the contractors behind the successful renovation. What used to be a drab masonry façade with modest window openings has been converted to a school for 5-8th graders with generous amounts of daylight that filters in through the generous high-performance glazed windows. A rainscreen terracotta cladding adds color and warmth to the facade. The new lobby was created in the old loading dock area and access provided from both Morton and Barrow Streets. The rounded corner of the original structure was squared off, which per the Architect, was a nod to the substantive improvements on the existing building.
According to the School’s website, the 177,000-square-foot, seven-story building is handicap-accessible and includes science labs, dance studio, art and music rooms, a cafeteria on the ground floor and a double height Gymnatorium with retractable seating. The coolest feature however, is a new green roof that was made possible by generous donations from local politicians.
MS 297 will be the zoned Middle school for District 2 west of 6th Avenue. The new building at 75 Morton is shared with a new special education middle school P751 that occupies the lower floors of the building. Moving into the new building for the academic year 2018, with an existing 7th grade and a new 6th grade, the students will no doubt help personalize the space adding character and allure to the stark interior spaces. While MS 297 embarks on its journey in their new building, parents in the West Village are glad to see that 75 Morton is here to stay.