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Mayor Walsh, BPS and City Officials Break Ground on Eliot Upper School Renovation

Breaking ground on Eliot Upper Renovation

BOSTON - Tuesday, June 20, 2017 - Mayor Martin J. Walsh today joined students and City and Boston Public Schools officials in a groundbreaking ceremony to launch the $20 million renovation of the John Eliot K-8 Innovation Upper School building. When completed in fall 2019, the school will feature state-of-the-art spaces designed to promote collaborative learning, as well as an art studio and robotics-engineering lab overlooking the Charles River. 

"We know that Boston Public School students deserve the best, and this investment is a testament to how we value public education in Boston," said Mayor Walsh. "This new space will bring the Eliot School into the 21st century, and create the best learning environment for our students. The Eliot School represents the $1 billion we're investing in BPS buildings over ten years throughout Boston, and I'm proud that as City, we're making investments that will allow students to achieve their full potential."

This project is part of Mayor Walsh's $2.08 billion fiscal year 2018-2022 Imagine Boston Capital Plan, which supports initiatives such as BuildBPS.

The Eliot Upper School, which serves 280 students in grades 3-8, is located in a 42,000-square-foot building at 585 Commercial Street in the North End. The two-year construction project -- the final phase of an overall $43 million project to two Eliot school buildings -- will begin in early July.
Eliot Upper Renovation Model
Starting in September, the Eliot Upper School's students will be relocated to the newly renovated, former North Bennet Street School. Boston has invested $23 million in a comprehensive renovation to the North Bennet Street School that includes new classrooms, computer labs, a multi-purpose room and media center all designed for 21st century learning. In addition, the project included construction of a new cafeteria, kitchen, mechanical systems, elevator, fire protection and accessibility upgrades.

"This is an important project that will allow the Eliot School to continue to thrive and offer its students a world-class education," said Boston School Committee Chairman Michael O'Neill. "It is great to see that its design incorporates many of the core principles that are included in the BuildBPS facilities master plan."

"It is so beneficial for our students to be able to learn in classrooms that can accommodate today's technological needs and are adaptive so that children can learn from each other, and collaborate together," said BPS Superintendent Tommy Chang. "We are grateful for Mayor Walsh's commitment to upgrading and improving our educational spaces to better prepare students for 21st-century success."

"This is an important project that will allow the Eliot School to continue to thrive and offer its students a world-class education,"
- Boston School Committee Chairman Michael O'Neill

The upgrade of the Commercial Street school building will include a complete renovation of the building's interior, replacement of its exterior, and many structural and site improvements

On the first floor, a new multipurpose room will be constructed that can be utilized by the community. On the second and third floors, there will be 18 new classrooms, including several new spaces, such as an art room, technology room and media center that will look out over the Charles River.

One of the important design elements will be nearly a dozen windows that project outward from the side of the building, creating "learning nooks" geared for small-group instruction and collaborative learning spaces that will enable students to work with each other and explore alternative solutions to solving problems.
Eliot Upper Renovation groundbreaking
Exterior upgrades will include the addition of a new stair tower and elevator to assist with accessibility, and improve the flow of the building.There are also many features that will promote sustainability, such as a new reflective roof, metal rainscreen, a stormwater retention system and discharge, LED lighting with daylight sensors and occupancy sensors, low-flow plumbing fixtures, high-efficiency boilers and new windows that will maximize sunlight. Other mechanical improvements will include a new electrical system, and fire and alarm protection systems.

"As a school community, we are so thankful for the support of Mayor Walsh, Superintendent Chang, School Committee Chair O'Neill, and the North End community in helping us expand and grow the Eliot," said Principal Walker Griffith. "This is a thrilling time for our students, families and teachers as we prepare our students to succeed in school and in life, and become the next generation of leaders."

The Eliot School has experienced renewal under the leadership of Principal Walker Griffith, who after taking over as principal in 2007 transformed the facility into a top performing elementary and middle school that attracts students from across Boston. The Eliot, which now has a waiting list for kindergarten larger than its original student body, was featured on The Today Show in 2010 when co-host Matt Lauer visited the school to conduct interviews on the importance of kindergarten.

When the renovation of the Commercial Street building is completed in two years, the Eliot will be able to serve upwards of 800-1,000 students at three campuses.

"The renovation to the Eliot Upper School is a key investment for the North End community, and reflects Mayor Walsh's strong commitment to ensuring that our students can learn and thrive," said Boston Public Facilities Director Tricia Lyons. "This project required extensive permitting due to the waterfront site. The collaborative effort among City, State and Federal agencies was significant, and should be commended."

The renovations of both 585 Commercial Street and the North Bennet Street School were designed by the Boston-based firm, Finegold Alexander Architects. The firm was originally hired by the city in 2012 to design and oversee the expansion of the original Eliot School at 16 Charter Street.

"The Eliot Innovation Upper School offers students a unique opportunity to go to school with a view, which allows for all kinds of opportunities," said Rebecca Berry, senior associate with Finegold Alexander Architects. "At 585 Commercial Street, the building's views of the Boston waterfront infuse a sense of tranquility, delight and wonder to the student learning experience."

Learn more about the City's capital projects at