Bedford awarded grant for redevelopment of former middle school site

Published: Feb. 12, 2019 at 10:48 PM EST
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The old Bedford Middle School campus is one step closer to new life.

The Town of Bedford has been awarded a $220,000 grant from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and Virginia Economic Development Partnership through the Virginia Brownfields Restoration and Economic Redevelopment Assistance Fund program, according to a press release from the town.

The brownfields grant is generally used to address environmental issues that may be holding a property site back from redevelopment. According to Mary Zirkle, Town Economic Development Coordinator, the grant will be directed to the Bedford Middle School property, specifically the building locally known as “Old Yellow.”

The Old Yellow building was built in 1912. It has sat vacant for years. Once the town jewel, now only traces of its glory days remain. The ceilings are leaky, tiles are out of place and paint is barely hanging on the walls.

And yet, town leaders see potential.

Zirkle walked WDBJ7 through the old building Tuesday. She pointed to the strong concrete floors and ornate architecture.

"Things that can be fixed,” said Zirkle.

The grant will pay for a new roof, asbestos removal and the removal of an underground storage tank.

"A lot of people aren't going to be excited about a new roof, but we are because this is something that needs to happen on this property and it's simple,” said Zirkle.

Not only is it a simple job, it paves the way for future growth.

The town has been in talks with David McCormack of Waukeshaw Development for more than a year. His team wants to turn Old Yellow into a boutique hotel and build apartments in the old middle school building, which closed last year.

The grant addresses the environmental concerns so that the project can move along. McCormack said over the phone that the grant fills an equity gap for him and the project is very high on his priority list.

"Where it's been sitting in the backdrop, now it's going to be in the forefront of redevelopment,” said Zirkle.

Amherst County was awarded the same grant for the old Phelps Road School, another historic building that McCormack is working on.

"I love the story these old buildings tell and the role they play in these communities,” said McCormack. “I think if we just bulldoze them we really lose a sense of the historic fabric of a place."

A fabric that Zirkle says has not just played an integral role in where the town is today, but where it is going.

"Giving it new life,” said Zirkle. “I think it says something about the community that we value what we have here and that we can do something with it that can benefit everyone. Something people can be proud of."

The town expects the environmental work will cost about $500,000. Half of that will come from the grant and the town council already put away money to match it, according to Zirkle.

No development plans are set in stone, but the town is hoping to finalize an agreement with the developer this year.