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Davis Building almost complete, under budget

BRADENTON -- Sunbeams filtered into the new skylight at Manatee High School’s Davis Building as scores of men walked around the unfinished, two-story facility.

The buzzing of a circular saw could be heard cutting brick to fit like a puzzle piece. A man placed small panes into an intricate 20-foot window setting -- one of two centerpieces on the building’s stairwells.

Construction on the building continues -- a building that schools Construction Director Sherry Dowling and project managers have already called a “showpiece” just five months before it’s slated to be completed.

“I think the craftsmen who are working on the building -- they may never in their careers work on another building that has the artistry of this one,” Dowling said. “They’re putting their heart and soul into it.”

Schools Assistant Superintendent of Finance Jim Drake also has been commended for his work involving the building. School board members commended Drake and his staff for finding a way to save the district millions. Stimulus funding coupled with different financial programs allowed the district to only pay a little more than half of what was originally projected.

Drake said the project was budgeted at $21.6 million, but will cost the district $14.5 million. The 71,000-square-foot structure will replace the original Davis Building that was demolished before construction started on the new one last year.

Project Manager Van Mitchell, with Creative Contractors Inc., echoed Dowling’s sentiments about the building.

Mitchell watched with pride as he explained how a casting was made of the old dome so that it could be replicated before the demolition. Historic details from the windows, sills and the brick of the historic 1926 Davis Building are being duplicated in the new building.

“You don’t do too many brick buildings anymore,” Mitchell said, looking on while about 100 men worked in and around the school. “Everything about this -- inside and out -- is first class.”

The pristine columns aren’t in place. And the capital letter M hasn’t been erected to sit at the center of the school’s full name atop the building. Those will be the final touches.

Students have been walking around the gated construction for months. In August, they will be able to see the full building with its choral, band and orchestra rooms, dance studio, 25 classrooms, music practice rooms, outdoor amphitheater and large auditorium.

“It’s going to be Van Wezel-like in terms of lighting,” Mitchell said.