Frank Conwell campus - elementary AND Middle school
The Frank Conwell Education Campus, which includes the E.S. #3 Elementary and M.S. #4 Middle Schools, is located in a reorganized district in the heart of downtown Jersey City, New Jersey. The site, adjacent to the Van Vorst Park Historic District, was assembled through the acquisition of industrial lots and the closing of two streets to form one large property bounded by Grand Street, Bright Street, Monmouth Street, and Jersey Avenue. Consequently, the campus was designed to be a unifying community center that forms a bridge to the historic district. The elementary school was designed as a three-story, 114,500 sf building that accommodates 640 students, while the middle school was designed as a four-story, 167,000 sf building that accommodates 900 students.
The main focus of the site design sought to maximize the use-able open space on the site while creating informal separation between play areas for pre-k, kindergarten, elementary and middle school students. The design first established a hierarchy of circulation and use areas by creating a main entrance from Bright Street between the two buildings that features a grove of deciduous trees set in large rectangular lawn panels. The secondary entrance at Monmouth Street includes a 16-foot wide shrub-lined walkway that acts as the opposite terminus of the circulation “spine” that bisects the site. This linear corridor acts as a unifying element for the campus pedestrian circulation network. The buildings, play yards, basketball courts, and gathering areas are all directly connected to this system.
Highlights of the elementary school play yard include resilient rubber surface play areas enclosed by bench-height concrete seat wall/planters and an outdoor amphitheater that extends from the auditorium. The middle school open areas include an arts/technology courtyard to the north and an outdoor classroom/assembly space to the south. All of the open areas within the campus are designed to varying scales dependent on their uses, with a simple palette of materials, including precast concrete benches and planters, concrete walks, resilient rubber surfacing, modular block seat walls and retaining walls, and large canopy plantings serving as unifying elements throughout. The schools and the site were designed using present-day U.S.G.B.C. LEED principles. The $68 million project was completed and occupied in January 2006.
WDA Principal Michael Dowhan served as Project Landscape Architect for E.S. 3 and M.S. 4 while serving as Regional Chief Landscape Architect at Edwards and Kelcey. Project responsibilities included schematic design, design development, final design, construction administration, and overall project management.