Circleville Considers Buying Middle School

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 Circleville is looking into working with a private developer to save the Everts Middle School building that will be vacated at the end of the school year.

Following an executive session at the committee of the whole meeting Tuesday night, the committee forwarded on an ordinance to council allowing the mayor to negotiate with the Circleville City School Board for the purchase of property for no more than $25,000.

David Crawford, council president, said the city wants to facilitate discussions between the school district and a private developer or person.

“The city does not want to be a long-term owner of the building, but we want to find a use for the building so it doesn’t need to be demolished,” he said. “Enough people feel that the building is a landmark for Circleville and we should make the effort to make sure it’s around for decades to come. We felt this might be the way to have the building saved.”

During the meeting, Michael Krause, vice president of the Woda Group, a development, construction and management company that specializes in working with affordable housing, discussed the project and how the city might proceed with the company.

The Woda Group’s idea, Krause said, is to turn the building into 47 apartments for the elderly, while keeping the structure and character of the building.

Krause said that adaptive reuse projects, where an old building is changed and repurposed, such as turning a school into apartments, can be cost prohibitive and expensive.

“The community seemed supportive and really interested in preserving the building, which I think is an asset,” he said. “I knew the project was doable immediately and agreed to send our construction staff and architect down here to look at the building.”

Krause said the construction staff and architect are tough on projects but he didn’t hear any of the usual complaints.

“When they got back, their report was that it was certainly doable, there wasn’t anything that was cost prohibitive,” he said. “The windows are certainly expensive, especially if historic tax credits are involved.”

Krause said there are a number of steps prior to approval and a lengthy application for funding assistance. Some of those steps include a market study and proper zoning.

“One of the things that’s most important in making a successful application is bringing a lot of local partners to the table,” he said. “I think we’ve done that tonight and it seems Circleville is a very close-knit community. We’re going to have to rely on a number of community partners to make a successful application.”

Krause also wanted council members to be aware that the funds are competitive and there is no guarantee they will receive the funds next year.

“In my opinion, it’s going to be a very competitive application,” he said. “I can start running models tomorrow to see how the funding will look to see if it will cash flow over the long haul. We want to make sure it’s a good business opportunity for both us and the community.”

Krause invited members of the city government to take a tour of the repurposed former high school in Washington Court House to see how the process will fit Circleville’s needs for Everts.

“The long and the short of it is we think it can be a good facility for seniors with its proximity to downtown and its accessibility,” he said. “I think that will be a great use for the building.”

Krause said if everything went according to plan construction wouldn’t start until spring of 2016, with work taking about a year to complete.

The School was built in 1916 and designed by architect Frank Packard. It served as the high school for Circleville City Schools from 1916 until 1970 when the former location at 380 Clark Drive was built. The process to place the building on the national registry of historic places is underway.

If the property is not sold to the city, another education entity or is not sold at public auction, the building could be demolished as soon as July of 2015, per the school’s timeline.

The city has a deadline of Jan. 14 to make a decision and notify the school board to see if they are interested in acquiring the building.