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Plans under way for school conversion

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Shenandoah County officials and representatives from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, nonprofit People Inc. and others met Friday to discuss converting the former Toms Brook Middle School, into affordable apartments. Rich Cooley/Daily

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The school’s front entrance. Rich Cooley/Daily

By Preston Knight-pknight@nvdaily.com

TOMS BROOK -- The former Toms Brook Middle School's conversion into apartments will begin in August or September, and be finished by the end of next year.

A management team composed of town and Shenandoah County officials, representatives from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, nonprofit People Inc. and others held a kickoff meeting to discuss the parameters of the project Friday. People Inc. has a contract to purchase the school, said Rob Goldsmith, its president and CEO.

The $3.61 million project will be funded through a number of mechanisms, including $2.1 million in tax credits and $576,342 in a community development block grant. Plans call for the building, at 3232 S. Main St., to be converted into 14 affordable housing units for low- to moderate-income residents.

An estimated 30 people stand to benefit, officials said.

But the gains, they added, will actually be felt community-wide -- local companies will be put to work, more residents will be living around downtown Toms Brook, a blighted property will be turned useful, and the school's gymnasium will offer opportunities for anyone to reserve space.

Goldsmith said for a similar project in Damascus, the charge was $35 to rent space. The only rule is that regularly occurring events cannot be planned.

"The goal is to make it very affordable," Goldsmith said.

For the residents inside, the price should be right. Goldsmith said there is a "rigorous" review process that includes screenings and reference checks, but People Inc. has never had a problem with too many people having interest initially.

"We have plenty of need," County Administrator Doug Walker said.

In Damascus, the first person to move into the residential building there was a former student of the school, Goldsmith said. That led everyone to eye Toms Brook Mayor Phil Fauber on Friday -- he attended the Toms Brook school and has spoken of it needing "tender love and care."

Town officials welcome any potential residents. For People Inc., which is the general contractor on the project, Toms Brook will be its 10th complex. It has also renovated Valley Vista Apartments in Woodstock, and a two-person maintenance staff will be responsible for both properties. A part-time person to oversee Toms Brook will be hired, Goldsmith said.

The contract on the building is part of the school property within town limits, while another portion, which sits in the county, is not. However, Goldsmith said his organization is pursuing that parcel as well, and it could be used for a playground or additional parking for the apartments.

The management team will meet at least monthly. Its next meeting is April 22.

1 Comment

Get ready Toms Brook, for your quiet little town is about to change and I doubt you will like it.

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