West High School students will have a grand new entrance to come through next fall. But to help finance it, organizers are looking down the street and across the country — to alumni.
Later this month, about 20,000 West High graduates will find in their mailboxes a donation plea for “The Ash Street Project,” a $400,000, front yard reconfiguration of a building that many consider a Near West Side landmark. Designed by Madison landscape architect Ken Saiki, a West High alum, the new entry will have a symmetrical, formal staircase, decorative walkway and performance area.
Referendum funds and grants will cover $250,000 to replace the school’s crumbling steps and make the new entry comply with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. But it’s up to West to raise another $150,000 to fund Saiki’s design, a vision approved by a community committee, said Principal Ed Holmes.
“Technically the district money is enough to take down what we have and put it back the way it is,” Holmes said. “It’s time for a renovation, kind of a starting over. The Ash Street entrance is really the symbol and the image of West High School that people have had over the generations.”