Thursday, March 16, 2023

Salem Academy and College Establishes Future of the Academy Building Task Force

Niche rankings graphic, details in article

Since fall 2021, Salem Academy has been fully operational on the main campus of Salem Academy and College. At present, Salem Academy boarding students reside in Babcock Hall, which is also home to Salem Academy faculty and staff offices. Academy students, parents, faculty and staff have been enthusiastic about the success of the move as it provides a distinct advantage for the college preparatory high school to be located on a college campus. Students engage in academic and cocurricular pursuits in spaces throughout campus, including the Rondthaler Science Building, Salem Academy and College Elberson Fine Arts Center, Dale H. Gramley Library and Student Center and Plaza.

President Summer J. McGee, along with Salem’s Board of Trustees and senior leadership, is  committed to a future strategic use of the Academy building in ways that benefit Academy and College students and enhance their opportunities for experiential learning and an engaged campus life. As Salem considers the institution’s best interests for the building, possible partnerships will also be evaluated, including the idea that a multiuse facility could benefit the Winston-Salem community and beyond.

To that end, Salem has created the “Future of the Academy Building Task Force” to review the status of the Academy building, located at 500 East Salem Avenue and make recommendations for its future use. Dara Folan, former Academy parent and former Chair of the Salem Academy and College Board of Trustees, chairs the task force.

Additional members of the task force include Academy alumnae who, because of their professional pursuits, are uniquely qualified to serve. Members of the task force include Abrea Armstrong A’09, Sallie Smalley Beason A’85, Genevra Kelly A’78 and Jenni Lynch A’77. The task force also includes Salem Academy Head of School Kris Porazzi Sorrells C’96 (and Academy parent A’18), Vice President for Institutional Advancement Kathy M. Barnes C’81, former trustee Steve Strawsburg and Vice President for Strategic Initiatives Katherine Knapp Watts C’80.

The task force is evaluating a recently completed review of the building by CPL, a firm widely respected for its architecture, engineering and planning work. With more than four decades of experience, CPL has offices in five states, including an office in Greensboro, and has a specialized focus on higher education.

CPL has readily recognized the value of the building’s proximity to other key community assets, which include the Innovation Quarter, downtown Winston-Salem and other education institutions (Center for Design Innovation, UNC School of the Arts, Wake Forest School of Medicine and Winston-Salem State University). The firm also noted that the building is closely situated to major roads, including Salem Parkway, Interstate 40 and Highway 52. The report estimates that a comprehensive renovation would be approximately $20M. 

“We recognize that the Academy building is a key part of Salem’s campus. This task force will help us identify the possible future for the building and the possible partnerships that we can develop to bring the building back to life,” Salem Academy and College President Summer J. McGee, Ph.D., CPH said. 

“We are grateful for the work of the task force to guide us as we evaluate the building and determine its future. The alumnae and former trustees were selected for the task force not only because of their long-term commitment to the Academy, but also for their professional expertise in areas such as economic development in Winston-Salem and knowledge about the Innovation Quarter and Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, commercial real estate, finance and law,” McGee said. “I am eager to have a plan for the building to be occupied again and have asked the task force to develop a set of recommendations that we can share with the Board of Trustees by December 2023.”

“We believe it is in the best interest of our students for the Academy to not singularly occupy the building in the future,” Academy Head of School Kris Porazzi Sorrells said. “Moving the Academy to main campus has had positive results. The students and teachers love our current location in Babcock, and I wouldn’t want to do anything to hinder the success of something that is working great.”

The CPL report’s findings drew attention to the positive attributes of the building, which include good vehicular access and parking, its stately welcoming classic edifice, good classroom and auditorium spaces and the adaptability of the building’s library, dining and art room wing. Additionally, CPL pointed out that about half the residential rooms are in good condition and highlighted the building’s wonderful exterior space on the campus side.

CPL listed several challenges associated with the building, including that its building systems (HVAC and others) are at the end of their useful life and require replacement, the lack of a fire sprinkler system, the need for accessibility (including ramps, elevators, lifts and restrooms), the low energy efficiency of its single glazed exterior windows and the need for extensive roof, gutter and exterior trim repair. The building also will require asbestos abatement. Therefore, any future use will require significant renovations and upgrades.

Regardless of its future use, the Academy building will continue to be owned by Salem and be used for the benefit of the entire campus community as well as broader community benefit. In its study, CPL recommends stages of renovations based on the availability of funding and projects that can be completed while the potential uses of the building continue to be evaluated. Due to its condition, the building will continue to be unused at least until plans are finalized.

“We are incredibly excited about the next chapter in the life of the Academy building to help us achieve our strategic goals and for future plans to provide high quality, educational opportunities for women and girls,” said President McGee.

Academy Building at a Glance

  • 80,500 sf on 4 floors, 4 sections
  • 20 Classrooms (7,895 sf, 15 faculty offices)
  • 101 Residential rooms (+/-), 181 beds (mix of hall and Jack and Jill bathrooms)
  • Student Center (6,000 sf lower level)
  • Auditorium (2,200 sf, 220 seats)
  • Administrative Center (2,000 sf)
  • 14,000 sf of library, dining and meeting space


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