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Toms Brook apartment project on track

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Ricky Costello, left, and his brother, Jason, right, paint this group of windows at the former Toms Brook Elementary School, The pair are employed by Fine Line Painting and Repair, Inc, of Front Royal. The school is being renovated for low income housing. Rich Cooley/Daily

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James Martin, left, a carpernter, and Josh Mercy, right, a carpenter apprentice, saw a board on the roof of the former Toms Brook Elementary School . The pair are employed by Anderson Construction, Inc. Inwood, WV. The former school is being renovated for low income apartments that are scheduled to be available in December. Rich Cooley/Daily

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Charles Hodson, foreman of Anderson Construction Co, Inc. of Inwood, WV, looks over the progress of this apartment unit under construction in the former Toms Brook Elementary School. The apartments are scheduled to be completed in December. Rich Cooley/Daily

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

WOODSTOCK -- A housing project in Shenandoah County for low or medium income residents could open by the end of the year.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday heard an update on efforts by a nonprofit organization to convert the former Toms Brook school into apartments. Robert G. Goldsmith, president and chief executive officer for People Inc., told the board that construction crews have "roughed in" the electrical and plumbing systems and completed sheetrock installation. Goldsmith noted that he and Supervisor Dennis Morris toured the facility last week.

"There are some really nice units in the building," Goldsmith said. "They're bright and the high ceilings make them feel spacious although they're not large, square-footage apartments."

Work on the outside of the building also continues to move forward, according to Goldsmith. People Inc. anticipates completion of the project on or before Dec. 15 with an open house or ribbon-cutting ceremony scheduled for Dec. 16.

"Certainly it's taking what was maybe the worst structure in the town of Toms Brook and turning it into what we think will be one of the very best structures in the town," Goldsmith said.

Crews began work on the project Dec. 1, according to Tim Varner, superintendent with People Inc. Less than a year later the project stands more than 75 percent complete, Varner said by phone Tuesday afternoon. Varner noted the building sat vacant since about the mid 1970s. The roof had collapsed and left little more than the walls and the concrete floor, according to Varner.

"We made outstanding time on it considering the shape it was in," Varner said.

The 14 units will consist of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments built to energy-efficiency standards, Varner said. The building and the apartments also are designed for handicapped accessibility.

Crews were able to save a few chalkboards, skylights and classroom doors from inside the building which they incorporated into the design of some of the apartments, according to Varner. People Inc. is receiving historic tax credits through the restoration of the building, which comes with strict design standards.

The building also includes space for community gatherings and meetings with the restoration of the school's gymsasium-auditorium. As Goldsmith explained, the apartment facility will be a taxpaying entity.

"This very likely will be, if not the largest, one of the larger taxpayers in the town of Toms Brook, so it will be a better fit to the town," Goldsmith said. "We're very happy with the progress. We think that it's gonna be a real show piece for the town, for the county, a great place to live and an asset particularly for the town."

The Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission also has commissioned the production of a video about the building and the renovations which the Front Royal-based agency plans to submit as a nomination for a governor's housing achievement award.

People Inc. began accepting applications Wednesday, according to Goldsmith. He noted that the group would like to see people move into the apartment building as soon as the contractor completes the work on the project. People Inc. needs to have the building completely occupied by the end of January, Goldsmith said.

"We'll be rushed to get it filled," Goldsmith said.

Anyone interested in applying for an apartment in the building can call 459-2119.

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