CHARLESTON, W.Va.- Eighty-two years after it was built, a stalwart building on Charleston's West Side has gained a new lease on life.
Local developer Chris Sadd and his brothers, Steve and Mark, have led the way in transforming the former Glenwood Elementary School into 31 apartments for older adults, something Charleston Mayor Danny Jones called a "blessing" for the city.
Though work was completed last fall, the ceremonial ribbon-cutting was held Thursday afternoon.
So far, the building, re-christened "Glenwood at Luna Park" in honor of the neighborhood's history, has 10 tenants, and applications are being taken for more, Chris Sadd said.
"We think things are going very well; we have a lot of interest," he said. "Most people that come in are surprised in a positive way."
Glenwood Elementary School was open from its construction in 1922 until the spring of 2011. In the fall of that year, the building was put up for sale, and Sadd purchased it for $50,000.
Work to convert the building took two and one-half years, and was assisted by several local and state development agencies. Ed Lipsky was the lead architect for the building.
Of the 31 apartments, four are two-bedroom and the rest are single-bedroom. Each has modern appliances, including a washer and dryer, and is heated and air-conditioned.
Most apartments still have the original hardwood floors from when the school was built. Several have chalkboards from the school mounted in the walls.
The exterior of the building has a facelift as well. The over 2,100 windows in the building have been replaced with modern, energy conserving versions. A stately black aluminum fence surrounds the property, and permanent benches have been added in the old courtyard.
Access is controlled by an electric key, which each resident receives. Over 30 cameras around the property provide additional security.
The tall ceilings, representative of the construction style at the time, remain in the apartments, as do the large windows that allow significant light in.
"There's lots of light. That's one of the first things people notice,"
For the Sadd brothers and their team, attention to the historic nature of the building is a key part of the renovations. The team worked with local and state historic and preservation agencies and historic preservation consultant Mike Gioulis.
"We don't want to change them a lot," Chris Sadd said of the buildings he and his brothers renovate. "I think people find the fact that it's an old building very comforting.
Sadd said renovations were both aided and hindered by the building's solid structure. He commented on the sound way the building was constructed, and that the school system provided good upkeep over the years.
"For an old building, Kanawha County Schools kept it in very good condition," he said.
Lipsky also commented on the building's integrity.
"This building is a great building," he said. "It was built well."
As renovations to the old school continued, Sadd said there were a few redesigns to floor plans before the final version, including changing 12 apartments after they were already framed.
"We changed the floor plans probably 10 times," he said.
The only major part of the building not yet renovated is the gym area, which also served as the school's cafeteria and gymnasium. Sadd said a decision about how best to use that facility has been made.
Entities involved in the project included the Kanawha County Historic Society, the Charleston Landmarks Commission, the State Historic Preservation Office, the Mayors Office of Economic & Community Development in Charleston, the Housing Development Corp. of Huntington, the Community Affordable Housing Equity Corp. as the primary equity investor, the First Bank of Charleston as the purchase and construction lender and the West Virginia Housing Development Fund for technical & financing assistance.
Agsten Construction Inc., served as construction manager.
Dana Boole, president and CEO of the Community Affordable Housing Equity Corp., said the project was exciting particularly because of its use of existing infrastructure.
"The ability to do a rehab like this and revitalize a community is really special," he said.
Charleston Mayor Danny Jones as well as several city council members praised the building.
"The Sadd brothers have proven good things can happen in an old building like this, in a neighborhood like this," Jones said.