Trying to bring new life to old schools, Danville considers transferring 2 facilities to IDA for possible redevelopment

Two former elementary schools in Danville could be marketed for redevelopment.

The city’s office of economic development has requested that the buildings that housed W. Townes Lea and Glenwood elementary schools be transferred from city ownership to the Danville Industrial Development Authority, the city’s land-buying arm.

“This transfer will allow the IDA and economic development staff to market this property to potential developers,” Kelvin Perry, project manager for Danville’s Office of Economic Development, wrote in a letter to Danville City Council.

Council was scheduled to discuss the matter during its work session Tuesday night.

The Glenwood school building, located at 1540 Halifax Road and built in 1948, sits on about 6.3 acres and has 28,000 square feet. The school closed in 2013.

The Townes Lea structure, built in 1962, closed in 2012 and is located on about 10.03 acres, covering 37,701 square feet. It is at 439 Cedarbrook Avenue in the Ferry Road area.

Both schools were handed over from Danville Public Schools to the city of Danville in 2014, Perry wrote.

City Manager Ken Larking said putting the building and land under IDA ownership makes sense because the authority is in the business of trying to redevelop properties.

“They have more flexibility to put together a redevelopment package that is for the benefit of our community,” Larking said.

City Councilman Lee Vogler said it was important to find a way to develop the two properties.

“When you look at the track record of the IDA properties getting developed, that would be the more logical place for them to be,” Vogler said. “They’ve been sitting there, so I think some change would be good in this situation.”

An attempt was made at one point several years ago to have low-income housing at the Glenwood property, but the idea was scrapped after neighbors objected, Larking said.

IDA Board Chair Neal Morris said he hasn’t had any discussion on whether to transfer the school buildings to the IDA yet. The board will likely talk about it at its next meeting the second Tuesday in October.

As for possible uses of the buildings, “it could be used for some other situations, or maybe entertainment or recreation or some kind of organization working with young people,” Morris said.

An educational or residential facility is also likely for the properties, Larking said.

“It could be a variety of things that fit in a neighborhood,” he said.

Mixed-use with residential and small commercial spaces are also possibilities, Vogler said.

“I’m certainly open-minded,” Vogler said of potential uses. “I don’t want to limit it to that.”

Either way, neighbors would likely be involved in discussions for possible options for those properties, Vogler added.

Danville City Councilman Sherman Saunders agreed that turning over the properties to the IDA is a good idea.

“We’ve used the IDA for successful projects in the past,” he said. “It makes sense to leave it up to them.”

Danville is growing economically and attracting a lot of attention and doesn’t have a lot of building space, “which is a good problem to have,” Saunders added.

“We don’t know what the future holds,” he said. “Looking at the available stock in the city, we need to be very careful how we use it.”

Danville Register and Bee – John Crane