Ceremony reaffirms commitment to Hayden Village Center

Published 10:22 am Wednesday, October 25, 2017

During the groundbreaking ceremony for Hayden Village Center on Monday morning, Hayden High School alumna Edna King was certainly smiling as she stood before the audience gathered for the occasion. King nearly sang as quoted the opening song from “Oklahoma!”

“‘Oh, what a beautiful mornin’! Oh, what a beautiful day! I got a beautiful feelin’, everything’s goin’ my way!’

“I humbly share this experience with our guests and other friends,” said King. “A school is people working with, for or against each other. My mind boggles to think that Hayden was open for only 17 years [Fall 1953 to Spring 1970.] I express sincere appreciation to bringing Hayden to life again.”

Other guest speakers included Congressman Bobby Scott (3rd District) and Del. Roslyn Tyler (D-75), both who see the project as a way to help solve the local issue of affordable housing for seniors, who Tyler called “our forgotten citizens.”

The program that day was more of an affirmation to renovate the school, which had stood empty since 1970. In 2012, the Franklin Planning Commission gave its recommendation to convert the place into a senior residential and community center. That progressed to the point to hiring a crew to clear out debris in spring 2015. An open house showed people what could be possible, and the intention was to open in fall 2016. But the sudden death of key project member William Wade, combined with the loss of financing, put the project on hold.

In early August this year, new hope was achieved by securing new financing, as announced by John N. Skirven, chief executive officer of Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia. Money is coming from Virginia Community Capital Bank and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation,” which will enable 27 senior apartments to be constructed.

“We’re happy to have brought some capital to see this day come to fruition,” said Thresa Joyce, senior vice president of Virginia Community Capital Inc.

Shekinah Mitchell, Neighborhood Partnerships manager, said the Local Initiatives Support Program is “so honored to be able to be a part of this project … this ground is sacred.”

Three other alumna who could support that statement are Camilla Holliman Ashby, Marie Chessnutt and Bessie Artis Smith. As they toured the building, the women stepped into classrooms once familiar to them as the library or music room.

“It means a lot” said Chessnutt of 1957.

“I’m excited about it being restored rather than tearing it down,” said Holliman, also of 1957.

Smith, from 1961, remembered her teachers, subjects and the good times as well as bad times.

The work will be done by Ashett Construction, and is expected to be completed by July 2018.

(Editor’s note: Thresa Joyce’s name is corrected here and in the cutline from the original posting.)