Zoning approved for Hayden Village project

Published 11:27 am Thursday, November 29, 2012

Hayden High School sits vacant. Senior Services received permission for rezoning from Franklin City Council Monday for the renovation project. ANDREW FAISON/TIDEWATER NEWS




FRANKLIN—The Hayden Village project can move forward after Franklin City Council on Monday voted 5-0 to rezone the Hayden High School property.

“I just want to say that since my tenure on council, I have not known of a project that will directly impact so many different groups of people, the children, the elderly, the heritage museum and professional services,” said Mayor Raystine Johnson-Ashburn.

“This was a long time coming,” added Councilwoman Mona Murphy. “This is truly an honor to be a part of this historic moment.”

Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia wants to convert the historic black high school into a 62,000-square-foot, government-subsidized housing complex for seniors. There would be 25 apartments with 10 in the original building and 15 in a new wing.

The $10 million complex will include a community center that could provide 60 jobs. Also included in the project would be an adult daycare center, black history museum, restaurant and Head Start facility.

The public can learn more during a 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 5, forum at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center.

“I can think of no better use for that building,” said Franklin Vice-Mayor Barry Cheatham. “To be reconstructed and refurbished to serve the elderly and the community.”

Cheatham voted after attorneys advised him there would not be a conflict of interest. He serves on the board of directors for Senior Services.

“I am the poster child for a non-paid board member, as well as for my family nor myself having any financial interest in Senior Services,” he said.

Larry Rose, a 1968 graduate of Hayden High School, expressed his excitement for the project.

“To see these gentlemen come in with the idea that they have, we totally support it,” said Rose, who has served on a committee for 15 years to rebuild Hayden.

“I think you will bring life into Franklin and that area with this project,” he said.

It’s important to the community as well as the groups involved to preserve history, said Dan Howe, executive director for the Downtown Franklin Association. “When you preserve buildings, it’s the most economic way to go ‘green’ in our society. Any time you can recondition an existing building, you save a lot of money as well as you save our environment.”

Holt Livesay of Franklin was the only one opposed.

“I don’t know why we can’t just bulldoze the building,” Livesay said. “The building is full of asbestos. We should not spend money we don’t have. The $10 million needed for the project — do we know where that money is coming from?”

Senior Services is in the preliminary stages of the financing the project, said Delphine Carnes, a Norfolk lawyer representing the agency.

“We could not move forward without the zoning being approved,” said Carnes, noting investors have not been lined up.

City Attorney Taylor Williams said no money would come from the city.

Carnes said Senior Services is looking at financing about $2.2 million and the rest of the funding would come from tax credits, grants and equity.

“This again is preliminary and has to be confirmed,” she said. “This is a fluctuating project and we have to be flexible.”