New start for old school

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 6, 2006

AHOSKIE – There will be new life inside the old walls of Ahoskie High School.

Last week, local, state and federal dignitaries gathered on the front lawn of this stately old school to formally break ground on a project that will not only provide much-needed housing for senior citizens, but also save an important piece of Ahoskie history.

Thanks to efforts of CADA (Choanoke Area Development Association, the Town of Ahoskie and the Ahoskie School Restoration Committee (ASRC), the old high school will be transformed into 41 units of housing for lower income senior citizens.

“People who have watched this building sit and decay for the last 20 years will now be proud of what is to come,” Charles Hughes, an Ahoskie High grad and ASRC president, said at Thursday afternoon’s groundbreaking. “An important piece of this town’s history will forever be preserved.”

Hughes offered thanks to a small army of groups and individuals from the public and private sector for making this dream a reality.

“So many people stepped up to bat in order for all the pieces of this project to fall into place,” Hughes noted. “To those having a part in this project, we salute you. This project means a lot to Ahoskie High School alumni and to those who taught and worked here at the school.”

Blueprints of the project were on display at the groundbreaking ceremony. They revealed a unique, high quality housing opportunity for Hertford County senior housing market.

The main building will include 37 apartments and community space for socialization such as an activity room, sitting area, exercise room, parlor, laundry room and a manager’s office.

Four additional apartments will be located in the school’s old Agricultural Building. Meanwhile, the old Home Economics Building will be used for commercial office space.

“This is a project that is close to my heart in more ways than one,” Linda Blackburn, Ahoskie Mayor and Director of the Hertford County Office on Aging, said. “We are saving Ahoskie’s heritage and providing safe and affordable housing for our senior citizens.”

CADA officials praised those who have supported the project n ASRC, Town of Ahoskie, RBC Centura, North Carolina Housing Finance Agency, North Carolina Division of Community Assistance, Community Affordable Housing Equity Corporation, the Ahoskie Housing Authority and elected officials, particularly U.S. Congressman G.K. Butterfield (D-1st) and U.S. Senator Richard Burr (R-NC).

“We thank you for your efforts that will provide new life for the senior citizens of Hertford County and thank you for preserving this historic site,” Cleveland Blount, President of the CADA Board of Directors, said.

Congressman Butterfield was on hand for Thursday’s groundbreaking.

“I pledge to you that I will continue to work for better housing in Hertford County and in the entire First Congressional District,” Rep. Butterfield remarked.

Betty Jo Shepard represented Senator Burr.

“The Senator congratulates CADA, the Restoration Committee, the Town of Ahoskie and all others who shared in this vision,” Shepard said.

Through the direction of CADA Executive Director Sallie Surface, the $6.4 million restoration project will provide an economic boost. The apartment complex will offer employment as well as provide the town additional tax revenue.

The project is already underway, guided by Weaver-Cooke Construction, LLC. Many of the investors are the same ones CADA used several years ago to save the old Woodland-Olney School where apartments were developed for senior citizens.

For information about leasing a unit in Ahoskie, contact CADA at 539-4155.