Fairhope making plans for K-1 Center

Government Editor
Posted 2/22/23

FAIRHOPE — Fairhope is drawing up plans to renovate the historic K-1 Center site after approving almost $445,000 in engineering and design work.

The Fairhope City Council voted Monday, Feb, …

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Fairhope making plans for K-1 Center


FAIRHOPE — Fairhope is drawing up plans to renovate the historic K-1 Center site after approving almost $445,000 in engineering and design work.

The Fairhope City Council voted Monday, Feb, 13, to approve two contracts for design work on the site. The council approved $293,000 to the Watermark Design Group for architectural and engineering work on the building itself.

Council members also approved a separate resolution for $151,900 to Watermark for work on the rest of the 7-acre school campus, including a master plan for the entire project.

Public Works Director Richard Johnson said the work was divided into two projects to allow a grant from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Administration to be used for the project on the building.

“The K-1 Center is a historic building, which is the original school and then its campus,” Johnson said. “We received an EDA grant, economic development, that was very specific to the historic school building, to repurpose it for Hatch to be able to be there to have a business incubator. That grant specifically says the architectural and engineering money is only for the building. It doesn't even contemplate that we could do landscape architecture for the grounds in front of it. Doesn't talk about parking on the site and other programmatic uses of the site.”

The city had previously voted to allow the Hatch group to use part of the building as a facility to develop new businesses in the area.

The original K-1 Center was built in 1925 and used as a school until 2011. The city bought the site from the Baldwin County Board of Education after it closed.

Johnson said the age of the original building and other structures built on the site in later decades make planning work on the site difficult

“When you think about that you have a historic building that has two major additions, even though they were old additions, I think the '40s and '50s or '40s and '60s, and then the outbuildings were built, plus you've got a basement in part of those wings as well,” Johnson said. “Just on the main floor, there's 27,000 square feet of currently enclosed space and then probably another 25 percent of that in basement space if not a little bit more than that.”

He said engineers will have to determine what is the condition of the building and how the facilities can be used.

“They've got to come in early on and say OK folks, realistically, with what we've got to work with, we think this is what we can deliver for Hatch,” Johnson said. “Here's what we think we can leave for basically unfinished tenant space that has a secured envelope all the way around it and has the heating and cool capacity so that it's not finished space so that then the city has options in the future and even Hatch has options in the future.”

Johnson said officials are also working on removing asbestos that was installed almost a century ago. The city is going out for bids on asbestos abatement on the site.

“This is my first asbestos abatement, so I really don't have a good feel of what we're talking about cost-wise,” Johnson told council members. “I hope it's not terribly bad, but it is a specialty service and unfortunately the pipe insulation is the tougher one in there, versus the tile and mastics.”