A Sept. 8 ceremony marked the start of construction for the new $20 million Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township administration building, set to open in early 2025 at the Fort Benjamin Harrison campus.
The district’s administrative offices currently are housed at the Lawrence Education and Community Center on Sunnyside Road — formerly the Craig Middle School, which closed in 2010.
Before the groundbreaking ceremony began, community members and district and city officials gathered in front of a large awning with a row of shovels and hardhats lined up in a pile of dirt, awaiting the ceremonial groundbreaking.
MSD of Lawrence Township School Board President Wendy Muston told the crowd that she appreciated everyone’s support for the project, which has been in the planning stages for about three years.
“As I say thank you to the taxpayers, I want to remind you that your taxes will not be raised,” she said. “It’s just so exciting to have this project at the heart of Lawrence Township in the center of this wonderful, thriving city.”
The project will be funded through bonds, according to information from the school district.
During his remarks to the crowd, MSD of Lawrence Township Superintendent Shawn Smith said the new building is possible because of the vision of the school board and the help of City of Lawrence Mayor Steve Collier and the Fort Benjamin Harrison Reuse Authority.
“Their vision of excellence has allowed us to dream of the new home for our district office,” Smith said. “I want you to think about this — this district office will not just serve the individuals that work in the building. But our over 2,500 employees, in particular our teachers. It will be a synergy of professional development and innovation that will bring the very best educators to Lawrence Township.”
The new building will be at 5710 Lawrence Village Parkway, which is now a large, empty field in the middle of the Fort Benjamin Harrison campus. It is west of the Civic Plaza, and surrounded by former military buildings that have been repurposed since the fort closed in the 1990s.
“I think this community has to understand, we’re making history today,” Smith said. “This facility will represent the excellence of our school district and our city for many, many years.”
MSD of Lawrence Township Director of Communications Dana Altemeyer said the project was a joint effort between the district, the City of Lawrence and the Fort Harrison Reuse Authority.
According to the district, the Fort Harrison Reuse Authority donated the land to the school district specifically for the new facility. Once completed, it will house the district’s business operations and executive offices.
Altemeyer said the new building will allow the Sunnyside Road facility to go back to its roots.
“The current (Lawrence Education and Community Center) is a school building, and given district enrollment and our commitment to diverse and innovative programming, it should be used as such,” she said in an email response to questions. “Currently LECC houses several alternative programs as well as Lawrence Advance Academy.”
The Sunnyside site will continue to house Lawrence Advance Academy, several alternative and special needs programs, and will be the home of the future Craig Academy, according to the district.
“The new facility will relocate the operations of the school corporation to a more centralized and accessible location in downtown Lawrence,” Altemeyer said. “Repurposing the current LECC will provide additional high quality educational space for students.”
At the close of the ceremony, about a dozen people, including MSDLT officials, school board members and City of Lawrence officials, donned hard hats and grabbed shovels. In unison, the group shoveled up some of the prepared dirt and tossed it gently aside, marking the official start of construction.
Fort Harrison Reuse Authority
The Fort Harrison Reuse Authority was established by Indiana Code in 1995 as a special-purpose unit of government created to revitalize the economy following the closure of the Fort Benjamin Harrison Army Base, according to the authority’s website.
It’s purpose is the “planning, replanning, rehabilitation, development, redevelopment and other preparation for reuse of military bases and military base property.”
The fort was a military base for 92 years, and comprised 2,500 acres. About 1,700 acres were transferred to the state and became the Fort Harrison State Park and The Fort Golf Course. A portion of the fort was retained by the federal government, and 800 acres were sold to the reuse authority for $9 million. Much of that was transferred to the City of Lawrence for parks, according to the website. The rest has been sold and/or developed for uses such as the Ivy Tech Community College Lawrence Campus and, now, the MSDLT administration building.
For more, visit www.fhra.org