Plans for Old School Move Forward

The Powhatan Point Revitalization Association is moving forward with plans to renovate and remodel the old Powhatan High School, which it purchased for $100 at auction in October.

“We could not let that school building get torn down,” Robert Hendershot, president of the organization, said. “We’re heroes now to all that went to that school. That was it. We had to save that building. It’s a nice, solid building.”

Now the group is faced with the task of securing funding, remodeling the facility and finding tenants to occupy it.

According to Business Manager Michael Stora, who took part in a recent meeting with the group by phone from New Jersey, the transformation of the old school will take place in phases. It will be multi-purpose community center.

“We have a strong interest to get investors,” Stora said during the conference call. “We’re also open to ideas and suggestions.”

Preliminary plans call for the facility to eventually include 53 luxury hotel rooms and conference center facilities, a family restaurant with seating for 100, a theater with performing and fine arts center, physical fitness and rehabilitation services.

Child and senior care, a youth center for before- and after-school programs, municipal administrative offices, business and city council offices, a courtroom, the police department, a Powhatan High School Alumni Legacy Museums and a social media and computer center also are being considered.

The PPRA is a nonprofit organization started last April with the intent of saving the school and eventually the downtown business district. It currently has about 12 members with eight being designated as “directors.” They say additional help is needed in several areas.

Its stated purpose, on its website, is to promote Powhatan Point as a destination community, preserve and reuse the old high school building, preserve and enhance the tax base.

Jim Jack, vice president of the group, said, “At first the group was started just to do something with the school, but it went beyond that to encompass the entire downtown area. It is now a long-range project. It could take 10, 15, 20 years to complete, but the primary thing now is the school.”

Stora, who is originally from Powhatan, said the first phase of the school renovation will be on the first floor. The second, third and fourth phases would be done in order as the funds are made available. The organization is looking for a $1.3 million loan to do the first phase work, as well as investigating possible grants and individual investors.

This would enable the first floor to be utilized while the other floors are renovated. The goal of the second phase is to develop a riverfront cultural arts retail and hospitality center with a professional research environment and housing. It would also provide parking, retail and office space.

The third phase is still being formulated, however, the fourth phase would include a hotel and conference center.

The old school is expected to be available April 1, after students move into the new Powhatan Point Elementary School. Plans already have been developed, architectural considerations started and potential employment data collected.