The most expansive construction project at The Bolles School’s San Jose campus since the former hotel that forms its core was erected in 1926 is benefitting from dual $5 million grants to the Pre-K-12 private boarding and day school.
Dana and Hope Fender committed to match a $5 million gift from Frank Sanchez to build the Center for Innovation, a 47,000-square-foot, three-story building that was started just over a year ago.
With the two grants now the largest single gifts to The Bolles School in its history, the facility will be named after Sanchez and the Fenders in honor of their generosity, school officials said.
“The Center for Innovation is an exciting work of both art and engineering, but like all campus structures, it exists to support the learning that happens within its footprint,” Bolles President and Head of School Tyler Hodges said in a statement. “In this case, this means collaborative hands-on learning, academic exploration with inspirational faculty and the ability for students to experiment and gain practical experience as they work toward their highest potential to serve our community and the world.”
Architects Marsh and Saxlebye designed the San Jose Hotel in the 1920s, as part of a planned community with Spanish architectural elements. Despite its 100 rooms and a riverfront view, the San Jose hotel and the neighborhood project failed, and the hotel site was purchased by the estate of Richard Bolles.
Now listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the hotel became a military school for boys in 1933, then expanded its grade levels and went co-educational in the 1970s, becoming The Bolles School. The former hotel was designated Bolles Hall. The private school has other campuses in the Spring Glen neighborhood and Ponte Vedra Beach.
The $26 million Center for Innovation was designed by Miami-based Zyscovich architects and begun in June 2022, with construction expected to finish by next spring. It’s adjacent to Bolles Hall on a bluff overlooking the St. Johns River.
The building will house science, math and technology programs, with space for advanced courses in robotics, computer programming, information technology, engineering and design. Bolles Science Department Chair Nancy Hazzard said that the new facility will be “an intellectual incubator for countless young minds” who will be future entrepreneurs, scientists, engineers, explorers and creative leaders.
The center will also include 12 labs with programs for anatomy, biology and chemistry lab instruction as well as an Anatomage table, a virtual dissection table used by medical schools and universities. Bolles is one of the few high schools in the country to offer this college-level science resource, the school said.
The new facility also allows for an expansion of the girls’ residence.
Despite the two new $5 million gifts, Bolles officials said the school continues to seek support for its ongoing development, including an additional $8 million in philanthropic gifts to meet the $26 million cost.