As one of the city of Madison’s historical landmarks, the Madison-Ridgeland High School building has had many lives over the years.
Since it was built sometime between 1910 and 1922, the building has had many uses to benefit the city, as it is a protected landmark. It will soon be renovated to house city hall as part of the new Madison at Main development underway in the area surrounding the old school building at the intersection of Main Street and Highway 51, extending south to Madison Avenue.
The building was first built to house Madison-Ridgeland High School, according to Madison County School District Superintendent Charlotte Seals. In 1935, the gymnasium building was added nearby.
The two buildings will be renovated, not torn down, because they are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The historic Madison-Ridgeland High School currently houses the city’s arts center, which offers lessons and classes or performances throughout the year. The center’s calendar is typically full of events from weekly drama, art or dance lessons to performances of ballets or plays and musicals.
In the summer, a two-week summer arts camp is held each July for students in grades first through ninth in art, drama, dance, music and set design. The camp culminates in a performance open to the community.
The gymnasium of the old school, which now can hold 360 spectators, will be transformed into a 1,000-seat performing arts theatre that will showcase local, regional and national touring artists and productions.
Building Official Billy Dean said two balconies will be built to accommodate spectators.
The historic Madison-Ridgeland High School building, which will become Madison’s new city hall, will be completed during the project’s first phase in the 2020-2021 timeline.
“The historic building that the city plans on retrofitting to accommodate all of the city’s future needs is located in the northwest quadrant of the exciting new development,” said Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler.
Mayor Butler told the Sun that the renovations required to prepare the building to house city offices will conform with state guidelines regarding historical facilities. All city departments and staff that are currently housed at 1004 Madison Avenue will be transferred to the new facility.
“The existing square footage of the soon-to-be-transformed historical building is deemed sufficient to include all current personnel located at Madison Avenue,” Butler said.
In the 1960s, the building that later housed Madison Station was built near the Madison-Ridgeland High School building. In 1992, it became Madison Station Elementary.
According to Seals, the building was sold to the city of Madison and was used for satellite classes for Tulane for a while. The building has been empty for quite some time and will soon be razed to make way for the new Madison at Main development.
Seals and the Madison County School District director of operations, along with Dean, conducted a walk-through last Friday at the former Madison Station building to see if there is anything more the district would like to salvage from the building before it is razed.
Seals reflected on memories during her time at that school and salvaged things such as glass bricks, office signs and a couple of pieces of furniture.
The brick Madison Station sign at the front of the old school will be salvaged and moved to the newer location off Reunion Parkway.
In addition to the new city hall and arts center, the 17-acre mixed-used site, which is located in the heart of the city, will also include high-end condominiums and townhomes, retail establishments, a boutique hotel, a specialty food market, office space and the city’s first multi-level parking garage.
A city square and walkable downtown has long been a dream of the city of Madison, which this project will bring to life.
“As to the retail businesses that will be locating to Madison at Main, the list will include a diverse mix,” Butler said. “Tentative plans currently are to bring five to seven upscale restaurants including Italian cuisine; a nationally recognized steakhouse plus an array of other popular dining choices including seafood, Mexican and health food offerings.”
In addition to the eateries, Butler said the development will also include a wide assortment of ladies and men’s apparel stores, including footwear.
“Specialty shops dedicated to consumer needs and the demands of future decades are also being sought,” Butler told the Sun. “Madison at Main will also feature a specialty grocery currently earmarked for the northeast quadrant of the site.”
Butler also told the Sun that there is sufficient room to accommodate all of the businesses mentioned above and more, as a projected 100,000 square feet of space has been allocated to retail.
“Discussions have already commenced with a number of these companies that are in high demand nationally,” Butler said. “Already, input from Madison residents highlighting their suggestions for the types and specific names of businesses that they are advocating has begun.
This input can be conveyed to the City through the municipality’s website and social media.”
The city is partnering with Greenstone Properties of Atlanta, Georgia, for the Madison at Main development. Wakefield Beasley and Associates of Alpharetta, Georgia, is the renowned architectural design firm who completed the initial master plan and will be the lead architect for the project working alongside Greenstone.