In the next two to three months, 41 apartments undergoing restoration work in a former school on Phelps Road in Madison Heights are expected to become livable spaces, according to the project’s developer.
Dave McCormack, who heads Waukeshaw Development, Inc., said during a tour of the 41,000-square-foot, 2.82-acre site the market-rate apartments will be called “The Westie.” Marketing the units is planned to begin in the next two months, he said during the walkthrough Sept. 22, which included several Amherst County officials and representatives of the Amherst business community.
“We are getting really close to the end,” McCormack said of the renovation, which has moved to the sheetrock and painting phase.
The former school, which last operated as Seminole Elementary School before closing nearly 30 years ago, is a national historic landmark. McCormack’s company, which specializes in historic preservation of buildings, closely follows federal standards in keeping the building intact as much as possible, he said.
“We’re keeping the old chalkboards as much as we possibly can,” McCormack said.
The site is next to an open field slated to become a new dog park called Central Bark, in which Waukeshaw Development is investing. The Amherst County Board of Supervisors recently approved a restroom facility there, along with several other county parks, with federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Stability (CARES) Act money.
Emily Sanfratella, COO of Waukeshaw Development, said the apartments will be a pet-friendly facility.
“We want it to be as welcome to the pets as the people who live here,” Sanfratella said.
County Administrator Dean Rodgers has said the apartments are expected to draw in about 80 residents and provide about $57,000 in annual tax revenue to the county.
While gazing at the high ceilings and a newly installed sprinkler system, among many improvements, McCormack said the former cafeteria space has made heavy strides since officials last visited in early March.
“You’ve got to like the open living concept,” Rodgers said while looking at the large open room.
Waukeshaw Development purchased the building for $50,000 through an agreement with the county in 2017. Once targeted for demolition because of its poor conditions under previous ownership, county leaders now consider the site as an essential ingredient for revitalization and enhancement initiatives in Madison Heights.
The $7 million project, according to Waukeshaw Development’s website, is targeted for completion toward the end of the year and may start leasing units in 2021, McCormack said.
Jennifer Moore, vice chairwoman of the Amherst County Board of Supervisors who attended the school when it was last known as Seminole Elementary, said she is excited with the progress and looks forward to it attracting tenants.
“I’m hoping for it to be the start of something phenomenal,” Moore said.