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Winsor plans expansion in Longwood

By Sara Brown
Globe Correspondent / February 12, 2011

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The Winsor School yesterday disclosed plans for a major expansion to its 100-year-old campus, including a 10-story building and several hundred parking spaces in the busy Longwood Medical Area.

Plans for the independent girls’ school were outlined in a letter of intent submitted to the Boston Redevelopment Authority and included the construction of a 300,000-square-foot, 10-story mixed use building at Brookline and Longwood avenues.

The proposed expansion “will anchor the Winsor School at its current location for generations to come’’ and “provide a unique opportunity for the continued growth’’ of the Longwood Medical Area, according to a letter from Thomas J. Hynes Jr. of Colliers International, the school’s real estate firm.

Winsor apparently plans to lease some of the 10-story building. Hynes’s letter said Winsor wanted to dedicate some of its “underutilized’’ property to defray costs of running the school. School officials said last night that the proposed Longwood Avenue high-rise “will house Longwood Medical Area-related uses such as life sciences or’’ research and development.

Other plans for the 7.4 acre campus include a new, 110,000-square-foot academic building that would take the place of an existing parking lot and gymnasium near Pilgrim and Short streets; a 30,000-square-foot addition to an existing academic building; and two parking lots beneath the two new buildings. The lots would add nearly 500 parking spots.

The campus’ two large athletic fields would be preserved, and 60 percent of the campus would remain open space, the school said.

Councilor Michael P. Ross, who represents the Fenway neighborhood on the City Council, reacted positively last night, but said the city and residents will need to look at it closely.

“The project is sizable and will have to be vetted,’’ said Ross, noting that it is in the early stages. “I’m very interested in seeing what the residents in the community say about it.’’

Ross said that “it is good they found a way to remain in the neighborhood,’’ adding that the school’s location in the Longwood Medical Area is “the last place you’d expect to see a school of this kind, or any kind.’’

With open space from athletic fields, he said, the school has a calming effect on the area. The project would “allow them to stay there for the foreseeable future,’’ he pointed out.

According to the school, the additions will provide much-needed academic facilities for its 435 students in grades 5 through 12. Hynes said in his letter that Winsor envisions an expansion “without materially growing enrollment.’’

“Our focus is on improving the quality of the educational experience for our student body, rather than on increasing its size,’’ said Joseph Broughton, a spokesman for the school.

The school has said that it hopes to break ground in fall 2012 or 2013. According to the letter submitted to the BRA, the project will require a review under Boston zoning code.

The first building constructed would “house centers for performing arts and for athletics and wellness,’’ Broughton said last night.

Mary Pickard Winsor founded the school in 1886, teaching eight girls in a Beacon Hill home. The Longwood campus opened in 1910.

Sara Brown can be reached at yourtownsara@gmail.com.

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