A planned addition to the Anoka Middle School for the Arts Fred Moore Campus will improve security and accessibility and provide space for an additional 300 students. It will also create an amphitheater and more community space.
The Anoka City Council signed off May 18 on a conditional use permit and site plan review for the roughly 26,000-square-foot addition.
Most of the new space will be on the south side of the building, where a 24,000-square-foot addition will include administrative offices, a new main entrance and a new cafeteria. The existing cafeteria will be converted to a learning center and classrooms. A loading dock will also be added off Fourth Avenue for deliveries.
Moving the administrative offices out of the center of the building will improve security because visitors won’t have to walk throughout the school to reach the offices, Eric Anderson of the design firm ATS&R told the City Council.
The new main entrance will accommodate all students. Currently there are two entrances — one that’s accessible to students with disabilities and one that’s not. A new elevator in the addition will also make the school’s third floor accessible to students with disabilities. Right now that floor is not accessible.
The project will create an amphitheater between the addition and the existing building. This secure outdoor space will only be reachable from inside the building.
On the northwest portion of the building, a nearly 2,600-square-foot addition will include a new entrance and two spaces that will be available for school or community use.
In previous discussions the Planning Commission and City Council’s primary concern with the project was parking, because the district eventually wants the ability to increase from 1,200 students at the building to 1,500.
The addition on the south will encroach on existing parking, but the north lot will be expanded for a net gain of three spaces. The school district has reached a shared parking agreement with nearby Zion Lutheran Church for use of an additional 25 stalls for one year, but the city doesn’t consider this a permanent solution.
To alleviate the city’s parking concerns, the school district has agreed to cap enrollment at 1,350 students until it can permanently secure 25 parking stalls in the area. If the agreement with Zion Lutheran ends before the district can secure 25 permanent stalls, it will cap enrollment at 1,280 until parking is secured.
Because the school is a magnet school, the district says it can limit enrollment by restricting the number of students from outside the district who can attend, and based on the most recent demographic studies, the district is currently expecting an enrollment decrease at the building.
Council Member Mark Freeburg said he looks forward to seeing the project completed, noting there’s a lot of history at the building.
“My brother went to school there,” he said. “I went to school there. My kids went to school there. It goes back quite a ways. And it’s been fun to watch it flourish and grow and expand and serve the community.”
Council Member Erik Skogquist said he appreciates the school district’s approach to its recent expansion projects.
“When they’ve been putting additions on these buildings they’ve been doing it in a thoughtful way,” he said.
The council unanimously approved the site plan and conditional use permit.
The Fred Moore Campus is at 1523 S. Fifth Ave. Last year the City Council also approved an addition to the Washington Campus at 2171 Sixth Ave.
Both projects are part of an ongoing Anoka-Hennepin School District plan, known as Fit for the Future, funded by a $249 million referendum approved by voters in 2017.
The work on both campuses is planned to be complete for the start of the 2021-22 school year.
Find more news and updates on the Fit for the Future projects online at ahschools.us/fitforthefuture.