Phelps Road School, portrait

The school on Phelps Road, now a state historic landmark, is planned for residential redevelopment as apartment units.

Amherst County was awarded a Virginia Brownfields Remediation Grant of $295,000 to aid in the redevelopment of a former school on Phelps Road in Madison Heights into apartments, the county’s Economic Development Authority announced Monday.

The former school closed 28 years ago and has fallen into disrepair. Waukeshaw Development, Inc., a Petersburg company, is working with the EDA to repurpose the facility into about 40 market rate apartments.

“Retaining and restoring this historic building will help it become a unique focal point for the community, add vibrancy to a neighborhood in decline, and be a catalyst for further revitalization in Madison Heights,” a news release from the EDA states.

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The Virginia Brownfields Restoration Assistance Fund was established to provide grants to local governments to promote restoration and redevelopment of brownfield sites and address environmental problems or obstacles to reuse so sites can be effectively marketed to new economic development prospects, according to the EDA. The grant money will assist in cleanup of lead and asbestos at the property. The Environmental Protection Agency defines a brownfield site as “real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant.”

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 EDA.

The 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,” Dave McCormack, Waukeshaw Development’s president, said in the release “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.”

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