Gym compromise reached

If neighbors of the Helman Elementary gym can't make the whole thing go away, they've settled for the next best thing: a wall of trees and a nice paint job.

School district officials, architects and neighbors who lost their mountain views with the construction of the gym gathered Thursday night to negotiate plant species and color choices. Neighbors still cringe at the sight of the concrete block, but most said they are satisfied with the efforts the district is making to ease their pain.

"Everybody's working really hard," said Sharon Bryson, whose kitchen and dining room windows are now filled with a view of the concrete wall. "It doesn't make my heart not be broken."

Bryson spent hours researching tree species and talking to different nurseries searching for the ideal trees to hide the gym. The district took some of her and other neighbors' suggestions, but others did not meet city requirements.

Architects replaced moderate growth trees with quick-growing species that still meet requirements of the of city's recommended tree guide and fit within the monetary confines of contracts that have already been signed.

Richard Higgins, an architect with DLR Group, presented a series of manipulated photos to neighbors to show what the gym could look like in 10 years once the selected trees had matured and vines climbed up the side of the building.

Greg Covey of Covey Pardee Landscape Architects described the trees as "bullet-proof" that would grow tall enough to block most of the building from neighbors unless the nursery sent a sick plant.

"We're trying the best we can to balance the concerns of the neighbors here with requirements of the city we've already met," Covey said. All changes have to be resubmitted to the city for approval.

The photo simulation also showed a "green screen" system of metal trellises attached to the sides of the building for vines to grow up and a paint scheme with a band of dark paint around the bottom of the building to make the gym appear smaller rather than the mural of the school's dragon mascot that was originally planned.

"The strategy with color is to make the building go away as much as possible," Higgins said.

Neighbors said they still wanted to see more evergreen trees and more local products to cut down on shipping costs so more money can be spent on landscaping.

"We didn't come to this with one picture," said Jim Bryson, explaining that all neighbors had different ideas about what the final product should look like.

"It's a process of compromise," said Robin Robertson, who lives across the street from the gym. "I'm not completely happy, but like Sharon says, it's there now."

Robertson is trying to sell some land nearby, and both potential buyers brought up the gym. One of them backed out because of the building, she said.

"It's not helping property values," she said. "Of course, we're in a bad slump now anyway."

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 227 or .

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