Job creation a major focus in plan to revitalize old Price's Fork Elementary

Published: May. 9, 2017 at 11:34 PM EDT
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The project to revitalize the old Price's Fork Elementary School building in Blacksburg took another big step forward Tuesday night.

The County Board of Supervisors voted on an agreement for grant funding, on the promise of job creation.

It's a grant WDBJ7 first reported back in June, 2016, when Governor McAuliffe announced it.

More than $1,000,000 from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development was supposed to go to the developer.

But it had to go through Montgomery County to get approval from the Board of Supervisors.

The big question the Board had was around the provision that the a commercial incubator kitchen, farm-to-table restaurant, retail market, craft brewery and business competition with support services would create entry level, likely lower paying jobs.

District E Supervisor Darrell Sheppard, whose district the property is in, was the first to ask about that.

“I think it's a great stepping stone for kids coming out of high school that may not go to college or are looking to learn a skill, and I think that's a great place to learn,” Sheppard said.

The contract asked the location to create at least 29 jobs.

The County said that won't be a problem.

“A lot of work went in on the front end, even before applying for the grant, and based on that there was sort of a range created, and the top end of that range was near 70 jobs,” Montgomery County Director of Planning & GIS Services Emily Gibson said.

“It came to light that the positions didn't necessarily have to work under that roof, but could actually be individuals who get services for that project or for the restaurant and for the other entities inside that building,” Sheppard said.

It was also brought up that these contracts showed a change needed in the zoning for the property.

The front half of the property, the Traditional Neighborhood Development parcel, needs more space.

That will eat into the Multi-Family parcel in the back, which will mean getting rid of up to six housing units that would have been built there.

“The use of the front is a little bit larger, I think, than they ever anticipated it would be back in 2014. They've learn that they need maybe a little more space for parking, maybe a little more space for drive aisles, in order to accommodate,” Gibson said.

There's still no timeline for when the project will be done, but it looks to be at least a few years out.

Next up, the County Attorney will look at the language in the contract with DHCD before officially signing it.

There will also be a hearing at the Board's next meeting regarding that change in zoning that takes out those six multi-family units.