How an abandoned school could spark a rebirth in Petersburg –

PETERSBURG, Va. — The City of Petersburg will transform an old school building into affordable housing.

It is part of a two-year effort to turn parts of three city blocks into about three dozen new homes and 50 apartments.

The anchor for the project is the conversion of the long-empty Virginia Avenue School into affordable housing.

Since 2001, the school has sat empty, except for graffiti, long empty desks, and the school’s name over the door.

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“There is no greater advantage than the adaptive re-use of a building now in a dilapidated state and detrimental to health, safety, and welfare of this community,” Petersburg councilman Howard Myers said.

The school will be turned into housing for seniors and veterans.

One of the leaders behind the project, Avram Fechter with Equity Plus, called Petersburg a “clean slate.”

“The school will be entirely redeveloped. There will be 50 senior apartments in here along with some community space, so it will just look like a thriving senior building,” Fechter said.

While construction is underway at the school, 44 new homes will be built on surrounding empty lots.

“The lots that we’re getting nearby, from the city are scattered, so it’s not all the lots on one block,” Fechter said. “It’s four lots on that block, four lots on that block, but all of them are going done at the same time.”

The city hopes the $24 million investment sparks more development.

“We’re looking for this so spur more development here in the Ward 5 corridor,” Petetersburg Mayor Sam Parham said.

The sale of the Virginia Avenue school also means $740,000 earmarked specifically for capital improvements within the Petersburg School System.

“It will go a long way,” Dr. Maria Pitre-Martin, Superintendent of Petersburg City Public Schools, said. “Replacing several of our roofing systems, HVAC systems, electrical, plumbing, because as we know, many of our buildings are quite old.”

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