The town of Windermere tore down the 104-year-old former schoolhouse after determining it was no place for government facilities.
The town of Windermere is an eclectic mix of old and new, historic and state-of-the-art — but one more piece of the past is going away. Windermere’s town office complex is in the midst of transitioning from one era to another with this week’s demolition of the facilities, which were built as a schoolhouse in 1916.
The four buildings were converted to town offices in 2000 and housed Windermere’s police department; town administration, clerk and finance department; public works supervisor office and storage; and commercial rental space.
The town has been discussing new facilities for years and debated whether to renovate the existing buildings or tear them down and start from scratch.
The final decision was made to build new facilities, and in 2019, the town received approval to borrow up to $5.2 million for the new municipal complex.
On Monday, Oct. 19, the first physical steps were taken when a demolition team tore into the roofs and walls. Police Chief Dave Ogden made the initial hole in the ceiling of the police department building with the demolition equipment.
“I was thrilled to take down the first section of the old police department in this monster machine,” Ogden said. “For seven-and-a-half years this team has rebuilt the police department, and this moment in time buries the past as we forge ahead building a new facility while we continue our pursuit of police accreditation commensurate to that build out.”
“These buildings weren't meant to be for government facilities,” Town Manager Robert Smith said earlier this year. “They’re not in the best condition.”
In August, the police department and town administration temporarily relocated to 501 Forest St. while the new municipal complex is being constructed. Public works will operate out of temporary facilities by the 1887 schoolhouse parking lot.
Creative Environmental Services handled the demo work. H.J. High Construction is the contractor for the new facilities. Construction is expected to take 10 to 12 months.
Windermere officials said the new one-story, 11,000-square-foot complex will maintain the character of the town.
The police department will take up the largest space at 5,445 square feet, the town administration building will be 3,000 square feet, and the public works building will be 2,554 square feet. The police and administration buildings will be interconnected, and they will have ample space for all their individual needs, including offices, workstations, break areas and storage.
Ogden said the police department is working to get accreditation within a year of operating out of the new space.
Upon completion, the new complex also will serve as a safe space for staff during severe weather such as hurricanes.
“Thank you again to the town of Windermere residents, Mayor (Gary) Bruhn and Mayor (Jim) O’Brien, Town Manager (Robert) Smith and all the council members who helped make this day happen,” Ogden said.