Bedford leaders receive 'promising' news related to burned school's future

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BEDFORD, Va. (WDBJ7) When reflecting on last week's fire at the old Bedford Middle School, one memory that sticks out for Bedford Town Manager Bart Warner is a conversation he had with a firefighter.

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"It's kind of emotional for me to talk about," Warner said of his encounter with the first responder. "The day of the event, one of them came to me apologizing that they couldn't save the building. My response to that is I think they may have."

Warner said firefighters managed to save something very important: the old middle school's brick and concrete facade.

By retaining most of its familiar exterior, Warner says the building should still qualify for historic tax credits to fund its restoration.

"The feedback so far has been that, our ability to preserve the surviving remnants of the building will satisfy the requirements to move the project forward," Warner explained.

Warner said the town is getting positive news on other fronts, like insurance and financing.

"We're finding that all of the contingencies that we had in place are functioning the way they were designed to do," said Warner.

That doesn't mean the fire hasn't created challenges. With most of the old middle school's interior now gone, some elements of the original plan to convert the building into loft apartments may have to change.

"We anticipate that there will be changes to the scope of the project, based on the fire damage," said Warner.

While the inside may look different, the building itself should remain.

"We're confident about our ability to preserve the facade of this grand old structure and carry that forward into its next chapter of life," Warner said.

Members of the public will have a chance to learn more about the old middle school's future later this week.

Dave McCormack, the developer who's converting the school into apartments, posted on social media Monday that he's planning to host a public meeting Wednesday night at 6 at Beales restaurant on Grove Street. That same night he plans to host a free buffet for Bedford's first responders, to thank them for their hard work last week.

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