Monday, September 15, 2014

Raw Deal for New Deal-Era School?

South Loudoun Citizens Group Asks Supervisors To Save Historic Arcola School  

Dedicated in 1939 by Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Arcola School is threatened with destruction. The Arcola School, one of Loudoun County’s few projects under Roosevelt’s New Deal Public Works Administration initiative, may face the wrecking ball if Loudoun County Supervisors decide it is not worth saving. 

“This brick building represents a time when our nation experienced unprecedented social change,” said Jane Covington, member of Friends of the Arcola Community Center.  Covington added, “If Roosevelt were alive today, he would surely be dismayed that Loudoun County is considering selling the site without consideration of the historic building.”  

The building housed an active school until 1972.  It then became a community center from 1977 until early 2006.  Many citizens in South Loudoun County, as well as The Virginia Department of Historic Resources, Preservation Virginia and state delegates Randy Minchew and Scott Surovell urge an adaptive reuse for the historic Arcola School, whose appeal is not only its historic value but also because it is needed by the community residents. 

The village of Arcola has been the center of major residential development.  Currently, there are four developments in the immediate area totaling 12,000 residential units.  Citizens have been circulating a petition in these communities asking for a community center.  Denise Kloeppel, an adjacent resident, said, “There is no community facility for clubs, HOA meetings, picnics, after school activities, dances, social events, and the diverse needs of a growing community.  [The] petition was started to show support for a community center.”

The Board of Supervisor's Finance, Government Services & Operations Committee met on September 9th to discuss the fate of the Arcola School.  Chairman Ralph Buona stated: “My elementary school is gone, my middle school is gone, and my high school is gone.  Fact is times change and we have to move on and build new.”

The Friends of the Arcola Community Center group challenges county estimates for rehabilitation.  Between 2003 and 2014, the County's cost estimate for renovation has increased over six times, from $1.9 M to $12.9 M.  The Friends group requests that the County allocate $25,000 paid from Arcola Center proffer for the purpose of hiring an independent consultant to conduct a feasibility study for the adaptive reuse of the building.  The study would provide guidance on future capital facility needs and a strategic estimate for rehabilitation including public/private partnerships, grants and rehabilitation tax credits. 

Laura Tekrony, Founder of the Friends of the Arcola Community Center, said at the very least the building should be preserved.  She questions why the county spent time and money having the building listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register and National Register of Historic Places just to have it demolished.  Tekrony supports a public/private partnership that would work with the Friends Group and County to rehabilitate historic school for the community.  The Friends group was started in 2007 to renovate and reopen the historic building to the public.

For more information, contact the author of this guest blog post:

Laura Tekrony
Founder, Friends of the Arcola Community Center

On May 22, 2014, Preservation Virginia, Friends of the Arcola Community Center, the VA Dept. of Historic Resources, Delegates Minchew and Surovell, and other community members met at Arcola School to announce its place on Preservation Virginia's 2014 Most Endangered Sites list.

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