Trish Bennett, Editor
CIRCLEVILLE – Everts Middle School is poised to become a stylish senior housing complex after grant funding was recently secured for the project by a Westerville-based developer.
The Woda Group Inc. officially announced its partnership with PICCA for the project at a walk-through of the South Court Street facility on Monday after receiving confirmation of Ohio Housing Finance Agency grant funding on June 17.
The plan is for the building to be brought back to its historical look and feel while being converted into senior housing units, similar to a recent Woda project in Washington Court House now called the Washington School Apartments, according to David M. Crawford, president of Circleville City Council.
“That one looks like you’re walking into an old school house,” Crawford said. “It has artifacts, lockers, the old wooden floor, all the features of an old school but updated. They’re planning to do the same kind of thing here at Everts.”
Jeffrey Woda, president of The Woda Group, said his company is excited about the new project at Everts Middle School.
“Our company has converted several old schools into residential housing in several states,” Woda said. “We decided Circleville is a community we wanted to have a presence in.”
Woda also will be working on the project with Chambers Murphy & Burge, a firm that specializes in historical architecture.
PICCA will serve as Woda’s non-profit partner in the project that will provide affordable housing for people age 55 and older.
Andrew Binegar, executive director of PICCA, said the project is a good fit for the local Community Action agency and will provide them another outlet to serve the growing senior population.
“It is definitely part of our mission to be an agent and partner for change in the county in providing opportunities for people to become self-sufficient and improve their quality of life,” Binegar said. “There is also such a strong desire in this community to keep this building and not to see it torn down. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.”
The city is set to take possession of the Everts property in August from the Circleville City School District after purchasing the entire complex earlier this year for $19.16, a sum reflecting the year the school was built.
The city will then transfer ownership of the property to Pickaway Progress Partnership (P3) as the economic development conduit for the city, which will then facilitate the final sale of the main school building to The Woda Group.
The Mill Street gym and vocational building are not included as part of the project.
Woda currently has received approval for grant funding through the Ohio Housing Finance Agency for a portion of the estimated $12 million project.
There are still details to work out and processes to complete before Woda will take possession of the main school building from P3, including final applications for additional financing and historic tax credits at the state and federal level.
Woda officials anticipate their purchase of the property will officially close in April of 2016, at which time the renovations and restoration will begin.
Crawford said the Woda project will be an excellent use for the old school building, and timing of the project could not have been more perfect.
“We pinned all our hopes on this project coming through,” Crawford said. “There was no back-up plan. [The city] didn’t want to own a school, but we wanted this building to be used for something positive for the community.”
He said the city will now begin looking into alternative uses for the gym and vocational buildings adjacent to the property.
“Council has to come together to determine how they would like to see the other buildings used in the community and then look for potential partners,” Crawford said.
Mayor Don McIlroy said the city soon will be sending out requests for proposals to anyone interested in exploring options for the remaining buildings.
“In my opinion, whoever takes it over has to be a good partner, and it has to be a good use for the community,” McIlroy said. “Whether or not it remains a gymnasium, it has to be something that will benefit this community, hopefully with youth-based activities in mind. Personally, I would like to see it become a community recreation center or something of that nature.”
A Committee of the Whole meeting to discuss plans for the remaining buildings is set for 7 p.m. July 14 in council chambers.
This article originally appeared on The Pickaway News Journal