Source: https://www.newsadvance.com, February 12, 2019
By: Shannon Keith
The state of Virginia has awarded more than $500,000 in Brownfields Remediation Grants for redevelopment projects in Bedford and Amherst counties.
A $295,000 grant is earmarked for Amherst County for a project to redevelop the old Phelps Road School in Madison Heights into apartments. Another $220,000 grant will go to the Town of Bedford for remediation work at the Old Yellow Building at the former Bedford Middle School.
Petersburg-based Waukeshaw Development Inc. is pursuing the Amherst County project and also is in negotiations with Bedford to redevelop the middle school site into apartments, office space and a boutique hotel.
The Town of Bedford will use the grant to tackle environmental issues in the circa-1912 Old Yellow Building.
“We are excited about receiving notification about these funds,” Bedford Economic Development Coordinator Mary Zirkle said. “This is the first step toward redeveloping that building.”
Bedford will match the grant with general funds and a separate grant that was used to fund a study on the Bridge Street Area Plan, also known as the School-to-School Plan, Zirkle said.
The town will use the funds to remove asbestos in the current roof on the building, install a historically accurate roof as a replacement, remove an underground storage tank and pursue lead abatement from old paint.
“We have to do the environmental cleanup before any other redevelopment can move forward,” Zirkle said.
The three-story Old Yellow is one of four buildings on the former Bedford Middle School property, which also includes a two-story main building built in the 1930s, a one-story cafeteria building built in 1964 and a two-story gymnasium built in 1999.
The town is negotiating a redevelopment agreement with Dave McCormack — Waukeshaw Development’s president — to develop the 8.37-acre site off North Bridge Street.
Waukeshaw proposes turning Old Yellow into a 30-room boutique hotel, the old middle school building into apartments and the 8,000-square-foot cafeteria building would be subleased for office space.
Under the terms of the proposed performance agreement, Waukeshaw Development will enter into a 40-year lease with the town of Bedford and develop the property in several stages.
McCormack has developed two other properties in Bedford — Bedford Lofts on Jackson Street and Beale’s Brewery on Grove Street.
“This is an unusually complex site, which makes the approach daunting yet very exciting,” McCormack said. “We’ve had lots of public discussion on this, but ultimately we could not accomplish this without the progressive thinking of the town council and citizens of Bedford.”
Town Manager Bart Warner said the town hopes to have an agreement worked out soon.
“The town is rightfully taking it’s time and making some decisions,” McCormack said last week. “We’re in the final negotiations with the contract.”
In Amherst County, the remediation funds will be used to assist in cleanup of lead and asbestos at the old Phelps Road School.
A grant match will be met by Amherst County’s commitment of up to $400,000 in water and sewer incentives related to the project, as well as waiving or rebating development fees charged by the county.
McCormack plans to repurpose the facility into about 40 market-rate apartments. Construction on the approximately $7 million project is expected to begin this summer. The site recently was named a state historic landmark and is awaiting federal approval to become a national landmark, a process that secures tax credits.
An economic impact study on the project shows $6.5 million in economic activity and 51 new jobs during the construction phase would be generated. The annual impact would be $1.3 million in economic activity, $57,051 in tax revenue and 14 new jobs created, according to the Amherst County Economic Development Authority.
The Amherst County Board of Supervisors approved rezoning for the project in January 2018.
“We’re excited to make a significant contribution to Phelps Road and Madison Heights,” McCormack said. “It’s my hope that removing the blight and getting the lights back on in the building will add new life to the neighborhood. We’re going to preserve all of the important architectural features of the building and make the school a really impressive place to live.”
Justin Faulconer contributed to this report.