New Kent Charles City Chronicle

News for New Kent County and Charles City County, Virginia | November 19, 2017

Third phase renovations for New Kent Historic School proposed to supervisors

By Andre Jones | October 25, 2017 11:47 am

New Kent’s Board of Supervisors received their first look at a proposal for the next upgrades and changes for New Kent’s Historical School.

Hopke and Associates representative John Hopke presented a concept design plan to county leaders as part of Wednesday (Oct. 25) morning’s monthly work session for the renovation of the west wing of the Historic School. The renovation will be the third for the Historic School as part of its preservation and conversion since 2010.

Hopke said the current goal is to renovate the west wing to functioning and operating conditions similar to the east wing that currently is the home of Rappahannock Community College. Most of the features in a 15-minute PowerPoint presentation revolved around making the building presentable, maintaining its historical preservation, and improving the structural integrity of the wing.

“Our current issues with the west wing is that there is no current ventilation system and the mechanical system is not worth reusing,” Hopke told supervisors.

Hopke recommended that the waste, ventilation, water pipes, and electrical system be complete replaced. He also recommended the purchasing of an HVAC system for a low-cost as part of the renovations.

A first look at design plans for the main floor included the restoration of the auditorium and stage in the building. Preliminary tasks include the addition of offices to relocate New Kent Parks and Recreation and Virginia Tech Co-operative Extension. Other features of the primary floor include several program rooms, a meeting room, a “Senior Café’” as part of the parks and recreation program, and an outdoor porch that extends alongside the building to overlook the courtyard.

“The auditorium will have removable chairs so that the room can be used for other purposes,” Hopke commented. “It will be able to hold 150 people for stage shows as well as having the capability to hold meetings and other functions.”

The west wing’s lower level will revolve around the gymnasium and additional storage space. According to Hopke, that portion of the plans is limited due to water issues.

“We want to go ahead to gut it and keep it dry until we can address the issues that arise from rain and the pipes,” he said.

Another change recommended for the lower level is converting the girls’ locker room into two locker rooms. Hopke commented that preliminary plans call for those locker rooms to be available for use when outdoor sports are occurring on the parks and recreation playing fields.

One of the more unique aspects of the design plan is the additional of a small, outdoor amphitheater to be constructed in the courtyard. Upon the reveal, supervisors praised the idea of the venue capable of hosting small concerts and shows.

“We believe that this addition will be something unique that attracts a lot of people from the community here,” Hopke commented. “The good thing about this design is that if it rains on the outside when an event is scheduled in the amphitheater, we can just move it inside.”

As with most reconstruction and renovations a price tag is attached. In Hopke’s estimation, total renovations can trend around the $4 million range. Of that amount, $3.2 million is centered around additions and alterations to the west wing, while $520,000 is designated for the locker room conversion, and $265,000 for the construction of the amphitheater.

At the conclusion of the presentation, District 3 supervisor Patricia Paige said that she praised the plan, but hopes the use of the Historic School is for the community.

“I have been in several meetings when discussing this building and I want to be clear that this building is more of a community building and not just a facility for parks and recreation,” Paige said. “As this county grows, we are going to need more space and I hope we can see some space in the basement [lower level] become available to use in the future.”

County administrator Rodney Hathaway advised supervisors that if they wish to pursue the plan to take it in consideration in future CIP (Capital Improvement Plan) discussion.

“As we work in the future, we all know that we will have to borrow for the construction of the new school,” the county administrator said. “I think there may be an opportunity to also borrow for this project at the same time.”

As far as the renovations to the west wing, Hathaway has high expectations that it will be a place for the community to gather.

“I don’t think it will be a problem renting this space out for private events,” Hathaway chimed in. “I expect it will be high in demand.”