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May 21, 2010

City Council contributes $5.8 million to Jefferson School project

Reader comments (0) By Bridgett Lynn
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, May 21, 2010

The chairman of a non-profit group responsible for the redevelopment of the Jefferson School building in downtown Charlottesville said construction may start as soon as this August.

Martin Burks, with Jefferson School Community Partnership, briefed Charlottesville City Council Monday night on the next steps in the evolution of the Jefferson School property. The city transferred the property to the partnership and has agreed to contribute  $5.8 million to the project, which will be known as the Jefferson School City Center

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Jefferson-School

Source: Jefferson Community Partners

The school’s primary focus will be to recognize and celebrate its history as an African American school in a racially segregated America.

“[We are] dedicated to preserving and sustaining the Jefferson School as a vibrant and meaningful community resource, providing cultural, educational, and recreational opportunities,” said Burks. “That’s powerful. That’s what Jefferson School did in the past, and that’s what Jefferson School will do in the future.”

The Jefferson School African American Heritage Center and the City’s Carver Recreation Center will be the center’s two anchor tenants. The Heritage Center will measure 9,368 square feet and will be redesigned as a museum that will document the history of the school and alumni.

The Carver Recreational Center will be renovated to offer a variety of recreational, health and fitness related activities for citizens in surrounding neighborhoods and throughout the city. It will be expanded to 20,979 square feet. The center is also expected to be home to various tenants that will compliment the school.

“We have identified approximately six non-profit organizations to occupy and lease within Jefferson School,” said Burks.

The potential uses for the tenants found on the center’s website include education, arts, health/human services, business/employment services, and possibly affordable housing groups or foundations.

The Jefferson School Community Partnership was seeking to rezone the school back in March to allow restaurants to open on the site. The application to rezone the school was submitted on Wednesday, May 19th, according to Neighborhood Planner Nick Rogers.

The City Council formed a task force back in 2002 to explore the feasibility of adapting the Jefferson School. Five years later, the partnership was formed to determine the financial feasibility of refurbishing the property.

“We had a project manager and design team to execute the planning phase,” said Burks. “We’ve established an organization structure which is the foundation to do the long term sustainability of Jefferson School.”

The partnership is responsible for the development and construction of the center as well as overseeing its operations during its first five years. Then the Jefferson School Heritage Foundation will own and operate the school and take responsibility for fundraising.

The total budget of the redevelopment of the school is estimated to be $17.3 million. The costs will be covered by a combination of loans, tax credits, private donations, and the city. Loans will pay for $6.7 million, and federal and state tax credits will pay for $4.8 million. Private supporters have pledged to support the operations of nonprofit organizations for five years and have placed $3 million toward the project. The City is expected to provide $5.8 million.

At this site in 1926, the school was built in Charlottesville to serve as an African American high school. The school’s origins can be traced to 1865. Community efforts led to the school becoming listed on both the national and state historic landmark status back in 2005 which made it eligible for grant funding. The City followed suit, allocating $5 million for its restoration.

According to Burks, the final site plan will be submitted in June. If approved by the city, construction of the City Center could start as early as August. The Carver Recreational Center will close during construction, which is expected to be complete by September 2011.

Jefferson-School-building Source: Jefferson Community Partners

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