The Bedford Area School District has received preliminary recommendation from the borough’s Historic Architecture Review Board to tear down a home adjacent to its high school as part of proposed renovation work.

The Bedford Historical Architectural Review Board last month approved of plans for the school district to complete work on the front of the Bedford High School and demolish the neighboring house at 306 E. John St. The district will need final approval from Bedford Borough.

“The front of the building is in the historical district, while the back of the building is not,” Superintendent Allen Sell said. “(HARB) approved the work as long as the front looks the same.”

The school district has been discussing potential renovations to its elementary and high schools that could cost up to $43 million. The school board has not approved the project or a final cost.

EI Associates of Harrisburg in October presented the school board with conceptual drawings that would add a 17,500-square-foot gymnasium to the high school, lower and shift the athletic field, add new bleachers and a concourse, and include extensive work to both schools’ utility systems.

The work on the front side of the high school will be cosmetic, Sell said. It will include restoring any deterioration of the building, but the high school will maintain its historic appearance along John Street.

“Please know the district is committed to the high school’s historical exterior facing John Street looking the same as it has for over a 100 years,” a news release issued by the district on Tuesday said.

The district in September approved the purchase of a home at 306 E. John St. for $130,000 to make room for the renovation work. That lot is proposed to become parking.

HARB has approved the demolition of the home, but has requested more details on the district’s plans for the lot.

The district initially wanted to buy two neighboring properties on the corner but the family of the home at 315 S. Bedford St. was not interested in selling the home. The school board agreed not to pursue any “legal means” to acquire that property.

Preliminary cost estimates for the renovation work were at $43.6 million, although the district would be eligible for about $3.1 million in state reimbursement through PlanCon funding.

According to preliminary projections, about $20 million of the project would go to building the new gym on the rear side of the high school directly behind the existing gym. The expansion would increase the capacity of the gym from fewer than 1,000 to 1,600 and would add other modern features like air conditioning.

To make way for the gym, the athletic field would be lowered and shifted east toward the existing parking lot and maintenance building.

A new concourse connecting the parking lot to the bleachers, gym and school building was proposed to be built in the rear of the building.

About $20.875 million in costs would be associated with improving other aspects of the high school, including its heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, electric and plumbing, as well as its roofing and lot development.

An additional $2.735 million was projected to improve the heating, ventilation and air conditioning in the elementary school.

The district will attend a zoning variance hearing with the borough on Monday to discuss designs that call for variance approvals for the location of the bleachers, the height of the proposed gymnasium, parking lot sizes, fencing and setbacks.

“We have to know what we’re allowed to design before we design it,” Sell said of the hearing.

Sell noted the planning and development phase of the project could last several more months. The superintendent said there are numerous decisions remaining regarding the potential project before the school board makes any decisions to move forward with it.

Contact Will DeShong at wdeshong@bedfordgazette.com; 623-1151, ext. 150.

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