The Little Red Schoolhouse at Phipps Ocean Park will be getting a makeover soon thanks to a $140,000 survey and master plan donated by the Palm Beach Preservation Foundation.
The phased master plan for the schoolhouse and the park was unveiled by the foundation’s executive director, Amanda Skier, at Tuesday’s Town Council meeting. The project was met with unanimous approval from council members.
“‘What an amazingly wonderful gift, and I’m sure the rest of the council feels that way,” said council member Danielle Moore.
The schoolhouse was built in 1886, and was the first one in Dade County. The building was relocated to Phipps Ocean Park in 1960 during an extension of North Lake Way, after functioning as a tool shed on the John S. Phipps property since 1901.
The building then sat vacant until 1990, when the Preservation Foundation signed a 99-year lease with the town to use the schoolhouse to operate a living history program.
The plan will be developed along with town staff and with landscape architect Raymond Jungles, who will be responsible for designing a native plan landscape for the park. Skier said Jungles’ firm was selected for the project because of his firm’s focus on “preserving natural ecosystems and restoring pre-existing ecologies.”
“This a very powerful way to educate residents and users of the park on native plants, and I think it’s going to be a showcase for the green initiative,” said council member Bobbie Lindsay.
“Our goal for this project is to demonstrate on a large scale how native plants can be used to create a beautiful, environmentally sustainable landscape, and restore habitats for wildlife,” Skier said.
The project also will include community engagement sessions and has the support of the Citizens’ Association, which will be working with the foundation on the project.
Skier said even though the complete master plan will include the entire 18-acre park, the project will be broken into several phases. The first phase will include the Little Red Schoolhouse landscape improvements and eastern streetscape, followed by the dune restoration and western streetscape, the main parking area, and the south and north parking lots.
The project also will include some maintenance work on the actual schoolhouse structure, such as exterior painting.
The foundation will donate the survey and master plan, and commit to fundraising for the completion of phase 1, with timelines for future phases to be determined at a later date.
Deputy Town manager Jay Boodheshwar said the master plan is scheduled to be completed this coming season, and the timetable for the actual improvements will be presented at that time.
“The master planning process will include a review of existing conditions and the development of recommended improvements that would be implemented in five phases, over a period of years, with the initial phase focused on the Little Red Schoolhouse, adjacent lands and the entire park’s frontage to A1A on the east side of the road,” he said.
“The town is very excited about the prospect of another public/private partnership with the Preservation Foundation and we are especially excited about a project in the south end of Palm Beach, which will benefit all residents,” Boodheshwar said. “Phipps Ocean Park was a significant gift to the town from the Phipps family and is deserving of improvements that reflect this important community. We are hopeful the master plan will result in recommendations that are in keeping with the town’s commitment to a more sustainable environment, visually appealing, and more resident focused.”