Historic school renovation project in New Kent on hold – Daily Press

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NEW KENT – Proposals to transform New Kent’s historic 1930s school into a community center and library have been put on hold amid concerns about the cost of the project.

Renovation of the school at 11825 New Kent Highway was expected to begin this spring, according to the New Kent County website.

However, the community center concept is on the back burner and the Board of Supervisors is considering using the space to meet county government expansion needs in Virginia’s fastest-growing county.

A separate proposal to build a community center in Wahrani, on the county’s eastern edge, is also under scrutiny as the board seeks to reduce a proposed property tax increase in the fiscal year 2025 budget.

In September, Andrew Smolak of Moseley Architects plans presented for the historic school including community classrooms, a community library and a performing arts component.

County Administrator Rodney Hathaway told the board on March 19 that the proposal was “well over budget.”

“There was some discussion that instead of doing a community center, the real need is office space, so should we go that route?” he said. “I have paused that project while we determine what the focus of that building should be.”

He said the county has already borrowed $7 million for the renovation. The community center design is priced at $13 million.

“Space is an issue and that will be the quickest thing instead of a new $20 million to $30 million administration building,” said board president Thomas Evelyn. He suggested the school gym could be put to community use.

The community center plan was intended to tell the story of the Historic School, the former New Kent School.

The New Kent School and the nearby George W. Watkins School are associated with the Green v. New Kent County School Board case in 1968, which is considered the most important desegregation case decided by the United States Supreme Court. United after Brown v. Board of Education.

Hathaway defended the Wahrani community center proposal at the March 19 meeting.

“Yes, we need a community center on the east end but… we need a precinct on the east side. We don’t have one. We are using a space that is on the market for rent right now. When it is rented we will have no space… I have not been able to find a suitable alternative location in that compound at this time,” he said.

David Macaulay, Davidmcacaulayva@gmail.com

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