Group wants to buy Hayden

Published 10:14 am Friday, May 22, 2009

A private, nonprofit organization wants to purchase the abandoned Hayden school building and property from the city and renovate the decaying structure into a multi-purpose facility.

According to City Attorney Taylor Williams, Southeastern Virginia Areawide Model Program Inc., a group also known as Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia, has offered to purchase Hayden — a former high, junior and middle school — and about six acres of land for $400,000.

Senior Services, which is based in Norfolk, offers services for seniors in the cities of Franklin, Suffolk, Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Virginia Beach, and Southampton and Isle of Wight counties. The agency was founded in 1968, and receives funding from federal, state and municipal government and private donors.

A public hearing on the possible sale of Hayden is scheduled for the next City Council meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Senior housing

Under the proposal, Senior Services would operate an adult daycare facility in the Hayden building. Additional space on the second floor would be converted to housing for seniors.

Other nonprofit organizations, three of which are headed by Clarence Baker of Franklin, may become tenants in the renovated building. Baker is president and CEO of Baker’s Home Inc. and Seabreeze Personal Care Services Inc., and is listed on tax records as director of Hayden Group Inc. Baker’s Home runs an assisted living facility at 204 Morton St. in Franklin.

“We’re very excited about this,” Baker said Thursday. “There’s been a lot of emotion over that school. I think we finally have a legal structure and funding to make it work, with the idea that it could support itself. The senior housing on the second floor will be low-income housing, but it will be for senior citizens.”

Baker said vouchers for the senior residences would come from the Franklin Redevelopment and Housing Authority. He said Senior Services has been in talks with FRHA over the vouchers for the last two years.

Deborah Rowe, who started as executive director of FRHA on March 15, confirmed Thursday that discussions with Senior Services on vouchers for the Hayden project were ongoing.

“We are working to achieve that,” Rowe said. “It is under way and under discussion.”

Williams said the Hayden proposal is contingent upon Senior Services receiving 25 vouchers from FRHA, and characterized the vouchers as integral to the project.

“I don’t know if they would go through with the project if they did not get that commitment,” Williams said. “The contract contemplates releasing (Senior Services) if they’re not able to get those vouchers. It could be a deal breaker.”

Other uses, tenants

According to Baker, Hayden Group will “be a partner (with Senior Services) in the overall structure and rehabilitation of the whole facility.” He said Hayden Group would be a partial owner of the building.

Baker added that a Richmond investment group, the Virginia Community Development Corporation, is putting together funding for Hayden’s renovation and would work jointly with Senior Services to operate the housing portion of the project.

Both Hayden Group and Senior Services will be tenants in the renovated building, Baker said, adding that Senior Services will relocate their office from downtown Franklin to Hayden. Also, Baker’s Home and Seabreeze will sign a joint lease and share a Hayden office.

Senior Services also operates a $1-per-ride transit bus system for seniors called I-Ride. According to Baker, there are plans to develop an I-Ride bus terminal at Hayden, which will also serve as an I-Ride stop. Senior Services would park I-Ride buses for use in Franklin, Smithfield, Isle of Wight County and Southampton County at Hayden.

Baker said a children’s program run by Southeastern Tidewater Opportunity Project Inc. would relocate to Hayden. STOP currently runs the children’s program at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, located at 683 Oak St. in Franklin, directly across the street from Hayden. Baker said STOP would also become a Hayden tenant.

Finally, Baker said another to-be-announced tenant would operate the former school cafeteria at Hayden. The cafeteria would be open to the public.

“There are some other potential tenants, but it’s not ready for announcement,” Baker said.

Zoning, environmental concerns

Williams said the Hayden property would need to be rezoned in order to accommodate all of the uses envisioned in the proposal with Senior Services.

“The city, together with the purchaser, is going to have to file for some changes in the zoning,” Williams said. “Some of these intended uses are going to have to have a zoning change or have to be approved by the city Board of Zoning Appeals (in the form of) conditional use permits.”

A least one environmental study of the Hayden building and property would also need to be performed, Williams said.

“We recognize that there are probably some environmental problems with the building,” Williams said, noting that Hayden more than likely contains asbestos. “There would probably have to be some asbestos abatement.”

Williams said the city has agreed to pay for half of the cost of the first environmental study, up to a maximum amount of $10,000. If there is an abatement process that requires a second environmental study, the city would pay up to a maximum of $390,000, essentially offering the entire purchase price to remedy any environmental concerns at Hayden. The purchasers would pay for any additional costs.

Property included

The proposed sale also includes the Hayden property. A survey from 1987 indicates the former school sits on a 5.873-acre parcel. A second parcel, which once housed the city swimming pool and measures 105-foot by 145-foot, is also included in the proposed sale. The pool was demolished after the current city pool was built on Armory Drive.

An adjacent 8.725-acre parcel owned by the city school division, which includes several ballfields currently being used by the city’s Department of Parks & Recreation, is not included in the proposed sale. A trailer used by Head Start also sits on the adjoining school division property.

Hayden’s history

Hayden opened as a high school in 1952 and served black students during segregation.

According to Sam Jones — the current principal at Franklin High School and a former Hayden principal — city schools were fully integrated for the 1970-71 school year, and Hayden became a junior high school, taking eighth- and ninth- grade students. The next year, Hayden housed seventh- and eighth-grade students; the ninth grade was sent to Franklin High School.

The grade configuration changed again for the 1978-79 school year when Franklin Upper Elementary School closed. Hayden was officially renamed a middle school and taught sixth- and seventh-grade students until closing in June 1986. The sixth and seventh grades were then sent to school at S.P. Morton.

According to city tax records, the city school division gave Hayden to the city through a deed of gift on Jan. 15, 1987.

Two other shuttered former school buildings are located near Hayden, but are not a part of the proposal. The buildings, the former Franklin Normal and Industrial Institute, are located on Oak Street and are owned by their neighbor to the south, the Apostolic Faith Church of God. City tax records indicate the church purchased the Institute buildings from the Southampton County School Board on Nov. 17, 1971. The church lies between Hayden and the Institute.

Della Irving Hayden

Hayden is named after Della Irving Hayden, a former slave who became a teacher and principal in the city and founded the Institute in 1904. She was also a principal of the Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute, now Virginia State University.

Baker said the Hayden Group plans to open and operate a museum dedicated to the school’s namesake at the front of the Hayden building. The former school’s gymnasium, stage and trophy case would also be available for community use.