Alexandria City Council adopted a resolution Tuesday night offering its support for private fundraising efforts aimed at preserving the Carver Nursery School building and also reiterating that the city will not be a purchaser of the property.
“There are some beginnings of some fundraising efforts in the community to purchase the property, unfortunately those are very tardy efforts,” said Councilman Justin Wilson, who created the resolution with Councilman Paul Smedberg. “But I think the city wants to show support for those efforts but also simultaneously convey that the city will not be the purchaser of last resort for this property as we move forward.”
Local preservationists worked frantically over the last several months to circumvent a now-passed deadline allowing the owner to raze the building.
• See: Historic African-American Building on Path to Demolition
At Saturday's public hearing at City Hall, preservationist Boyd Walker submitted a petition opposing demolition of the building. Members of the Alexandria branch of the NAACP spoke of a desire to safeguard the structure, which was built in 1944 to educate African-American children during World War II. It later became the William Thomas American Legion Post 129, but its members stopped using the facility in 2007. The building has since remained vacant.
The city had previously approved a request from owner and developer William Cromley, who purchased the building located at 224 N. Fayette St. in the city’s Parker-Gray Historic District about five years ago, to have it torn down. A lawsuit and subsequent agreement allowed the building to stand for about two more years with the idea that a buyer or a means to preserve it would be found. No suitable solution has been offered.
In light of the recent efforts to save the building, Cromley has agreed on “good-faith,” he said, to let the building sit after receiving some assurances that a purchaser will emerge in "a reasonable amount of time."
“There’s a new group of people that are energized,” Cromley told Patch. “I don’t have any immediate plans, so there’s no reason to knock it down.”
• See: Carver Owner Cromley: 'I Am a Preservationist'
In the resolution, council authorizes City Manager Rashad Young to utilize existing city staff to assist in researching grants, donations and federal or state appropriations that can assist the private efforts to acquire and preserve the property. The resolution also authorizes Young to recommend to council “reasonable accommodations (both financial and with land-use authority)” to Cromley and potential purchasers to support any time extension for purchasers to come forward.
“We’re fortunate in a way that we have a developer that’s willing to work with the various parties that are interested in preserving this,” Smedberg said.
For more on the Carver Nursery building, check out:
- Carver Owner Cromley: 'I Am a Preservationist'
- Letter to the Editor: Why Preserve the Carver Nursery?
- Historic African-American Building on Path to Demolition