Nonprofit to revamp vacant Northside school

A vacant school building is set for redevelopment as apartments. Photos by Katie Demeria.

A vacant school building is set for redevelopment as apartments. Photos by Katie Demeria.

A Richmond nonprofit is preparing to breathe new life into an abandoned Northside school building.

The Canaan Housing Foundation has requested city approval for the construction of a multimillion-dollar 92-unit apartment project for low-income elderly residents in the former St. Elizabeth’s School at 1031 Fourqurean Lane.

Victor Davis, president and founder of Canaan Housing Foundation, said the organization was formed in 1995 with the goal of providing affordable housing to the elderly in Church Hill. Davis is also the pastor of the Bethlehem Baptist Church in Richmond and teaches at George Mason Elementary School.

Canaan’s past projects include the renovation of the 65-unit Bowler School, which closed in 1979, at 602 N. 26th St. and the 62-unit Nathaniel Bacon School, declared surplus in 1988, at 815 N. 35th St. Both similarly cater to low-income residents 55 years or older.

Its latest project will include renovating and expanding the former St. Elizabeth’s School, which has been vacant since the 1960s, Davis said.

The school

Davis said the school has been vacant since the ’60s. 

“The residents of the community have concerns that it is a blight on the community, and they want to see something positive done with it,” Davis said. “In light of the fact that we have such a successful history, it was a natural marriage.”

The project, which will cost between $6 million and $7 million, will seek low-income housing tax credits and historic tax credits, Davis said.

Canaan Housing plans to sell corporations tax credits from the project, which can in turn be used to pay down any taxes those companies owe the government.

“It’s the government’s way of getting (corporations) to invest money in an area that it feels needs to be revitalized, so it serves as an excellent means of directing and helping the nonprofits,” Davis said.

The 92 units are set to come in at around 500 or 600 square feet each, most with one bedroom.

The facility is not an assisted living home, Davis said, and the residents must be capable of living independently.

“People are living longer, and usually when they get a little older, they are looking to downsize,” Davis said.

The foundation is currently working to finalize the purchase of the 2.2 acres on which the school sits. Davis declined to share the pending purchase price, but said the sale should close within the next month.

The plans are set to go before the city’s Planning Commission Monday afternoon. If the project receives the necessary approval, construction should start in the summer of 2016 and finish up about nine months later.

Davis said the foundation is still waiting to get its final approvals in place from the city before selecting developers, contractors and architects to work with. In the past, it worked with Historic Housing LLC to develop the Bowler and Bacon schools.

Canaan Housing works with Main Street Realty to manage its properties and determine the formula by which residents are selected. In addition to age requirements, they must meet income restrictions, which are based on the standards of living in the area and the poverty level. Davis was not able to provide specific income figures.

“Our mission is to improve the quality of life for citizens and to revitalize blighted communities and to bring back online properties that have been off tax rolls for a while,” Davis said. “We meet the growing need of one of the fastest-growing elements in American societies: the elderly.”

A vacant school building is set for redevelopment as apartments. Photos by Katie Demeria.

A vacant school building is set for redevelopment as apartments. Photos by Katie Demeria.

A Richmond nonprofit is preparing to breathe new life into an abandoned Northside school building.

The Canaan Housing Foundation has requested city approval for the construction of a multimillion-dollar 92-unit apartment project for low-income elderly residents in the former St. Elizabeth’s School at 1031 Fourqurean Lane.

Victor Davis, president and founder of Canaan Housing Foundation, said the organization was formed in 1995 with the goal of providing affordable housing to the elderly in Church Hill. Davis is also the pastor of the Bethlehem Baptist Church in Richmond and teaches at George Mason Elementary School.

Canaan’s past projects include the renovation of the 65-unit Bowler School, which closed in 1979, at 602 N. 26th St. and the 62-unit Nathaniel Bacon School, declared surplus in 1988, at 815 N. 35th St. Both similarly cater to low-income residents 55 years or older.

Its latest project will include renovating and expanding the former St. Elizabeth’s School, which has been vacant since the 1960s, Davis said.

The school

Davis said the school has been vacant since the ’60s. 

“The residents of the community have concerns that it is a blight on the community, and they want to see something positive done with it,” Davis said. “In light of the fact that we have such a successful history, it was a natural marriage.”

The project, which will cost between $6 million and $7 million, will seek low-income housing tax credits and historic tax credits, Davis said.

Canaan Housing plans to sell corporations tax credits from the project, which can in turn be used to pay down any taxes those companies owe the government.

“It’s the government’s way of getting (corporations) to invest money in an area that it feels needs to be revitalized, so it serves as an excellent means of directing and helping the nonprofits,” Davis said.

The 92 units are set to come in at around 500 or 600 square feet each, most with one bedroom.

The facility is not an assisted living home, Davis said, and the residents must be capable of living independently.

“People are living longer, and usually when they get a little older, they are looking to downsize,” Davis said.

The foundation is currently working to finalize the purchase of the 2.2 acres on which the school sits. Davis declined to share the pending purchase price, but said the sale should close within the next month.

The plans are set to go before the city’s Planning Commission Monday afternoon. If the project receives the necessary approval, construction should start in the summer of 2016 and finish up about nine months later.

Davis said the foundation is still waiting to get its final approvals in place from the city before selecting developers, contractors and architects to work with. In the past, it worked with Historic Housing LLC to develop the Bowler and Bacon schools.

Canaan Housing works with Main Street Realty to manage its properties and determine the formula by which residents are selected. In addition to age requirements, they must meet income restrictions, which are based on the standards of living in the area and the poverty level. Davis was not able to provide specific income figures.

“Our mission is to improve the quality of life for citizens and to revitalize blighted communities and to bring back online properties that have been off tax rolls for a while,” Davis said. “We meet the growing need of one of the fastest-growing elements in American societies: the elderly.”

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Karen Link
Karen Link
7 years ago

Two new low income senior homes slated to be opened within a few blocks in the Highland Park area. Feast or famine. This community continues to saturate reall estate with low income/assisted living.
We ‘need’ a marketplace to provide fresh produce and such to a neighborhood that enslaves its low income residents with countless corner stores that provide nothing but junk food, beer and Cigerettes.