Transforming the school
Austin Elementary campus construction takes hold
By Lee Anderson/Times Record News
January 11, 2007
The playground around the former Austin Elementary School campus is no longer filled with the laughter of children playing. It's now the sounds of hammers and saws that fill the air as work progresses to convert the property into upscale apartments.
Rick and Christy Graham, owners of R.C. Graham Inc., bought the property from the Wichita Falls Independent School District in March and a few months later put their plans into action.
The school, at 1309 13th Street, was closed in June 2005.
Christy Graham said a building on the property that once housed fourth-grade classrooms was remodeled to become the Senior Citizens of North Texas Inc. Adult Day Care Center.
"We started the project around the end of August and they moved in around Oct. 1," she pointed out. "There were three classrooms and we basically used the same footprints."
Two of the rooms were combined (entertainment and dining areas) and the other is used for office space. The project included remodeling the restrooms, replacing windows, adding handicap ramps, painting, etc., she said.
Another building, which housed two kindergarten classrooms, is being converted into two apartment units. One will have three bedrooms with two full baths and the other will be two bedrooms with two baths. They will have private backyards.
She and her husband plan on moving into the three-bedroom apartment when work is completed around March 1, about the same time the other is ready for occupancy.
She said there is already a waiting list of people interested in moving into the complex, which they anticipate naming Austin School Loft.
Plans for the original school building, which was built in 1913, are in the hands of the architect and the Grahams anticipate work on it will get started in April, with a completion date about the end of summer.
She said their company is the general contractor and that they are subcontracting work.
The building will house between 24 and 26 apartments and will range in size from two efficiency units of about 350 square feet each to one- and two-bedroom apartments. The one-bedroom apartments will be between 650 and 700 square feet in size, and a couple of the two-bedroom units will be 900 to 1,000 square feet.
Once it is ready for occupancy, the owners will conduct a market survey and the apartments "will be priced to market value."
The main three-story building will have an elevator and all of the amenities of their other downtown properties, LaSalle Crossing and Travis Crossing, Christy Graham said. Most of the complex will be gated.
She said it also will include electronic access to enter the building.
The apartments will have fully equipped kitchens, central heat and air, and ceiling fans, among other features.
"One of the most unique features is the very large windows," she said. "We are anticipating wood flooring, with carpeting in the bedrooms. They will also have full-sized washer and dryer connections and some other unique features."
Christy Graham said the playground equipment in front of the main building will be removed to make room for the gated parking lot, which will have two parking spaces for each apartment. A patio area also is being planned, along with a dog-run.
She said no plans have been made at this time for the cafeteria building.
"At this time, we don't know what it will be used for. It will be our last building to do as far as the project," she said.