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Maury School's midterm look Work continues on conversion
Construction on schedule at old Maury School

Date published: 1/2/2007

By EMILY BATTLE

It's taken a Richmond contractor just two months to breathe a little life into a landmark Fredericksburg building that was an empty, decaying shell for 25 years.

Since starting work at the end of October, the Trent Corp. is well on its way toward transforming the old Maury school into 32 residential condominiums, set to open in June or July of 2007.

For years, the historic city school at the end of George Street was an empty space that attracted vandals and critters.

Now, construction workers stream in and out every day, and every night, spotlights illuminate what's being built on the inside.

Right now, that would be the framing for what will be the walls, doors and closets of the condos. In the old cafeteria, which is in the bottom of the 1936 annex on the school, workers are digging through the original concrete slab to install plumbing that will feed the kitchens and bathrooms of the residents-to-be.

Trent is working with development firm Echelon Resources, Commonwealth Architects and construction management firm Pareto LLC on the project.

The group took ownership of the building Oct. 20, after responding to a request for proposals the city put out a year ago to end the years of uncertainty over what would become of the building.

Trent started working in the newer portion of the building, the part closest to William Street, and is working its way back toward the older section, built in 1919.

Soon, the team will start preparing the former auditorium for its transformation into five condos.

The auditorium was one of the most challenging parts of the renovation to design, Echelon President Edwin Gaskin said.

It meant turning a huge open space into individual units, all while working within the standards dictated by the state Department of Historic Resources, whose historic rehabilitation tax credits are a crucial part of the financing for the $7.5 million project.

The old stage, for example, will stay intact, and will be part of the biggest unit in the building.

Under the auditorium, in the former gymnasium, the city is working with the Central Rappahannock Heritage Center to design a space that would include a public meeting room able to handle up to 75 people and office space for the Heritage Center.


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Idle time

Fredericksburg's City Council ended a long period of indecision when it voted last year to sell the old Maury School to the Richmond team now renovating it.

A look at Maury's recent history:

1980--Maury closes, after serving as first a high school and later an elementary school since its construction in 1919.

1990s--various committees are commissioned by the City Council to study Maury's future possibilities. One after another, proposals for a community arts center, a cultural center and theater, a new home for the Central Rappahannock Regional Library and the city's courts are rejected, often for lack of funds.

2001--The council decides to ask the private sector for proposals on Maury that would retain part of the building for public use. After receiving nine proposals, the city does nothing with them.

2003--City signs agreement to partner with Mary Washington College and George Washington's Fredericksburg Foundation to renovate Maury as a public theater, exhibit and meeting space and a James Monroe Presidential Center. A fundraising feasibility study later reveals little support among area donors for the project.

2005--City Council sends out another request for private proposals for the school. This time, it gets only two proposals. In October of 2006, the school is sold to a Richmond development team led by Echelon Resources Inc.

More on Maury

Purchase price: $350,000, with $50,000 of that given as a donation to the Fredericksburg Area Veterans Memorial, being built on the traffic island on George Street.

Public space: The team that bought Maury will be renovating the 4,300-square-foot former gymnasium to the city's specifications as public space and offices for the Central Rappahannock Heritage Center. The city will pay for this work out of the proceeds of the sale of the building, and then rent this space from the Echelon team. The city will pay around $250,000 in rent on it over the first five years, and would then be given the option to buy it for the $45 that would be left on its 50-year lease.

Parking: The group will build 57 parking spaces on the property, which will require paving most of the grassy yard around the school. In addition, eight spaces on Barton Street will be reserved for visitors to the public portion of the building.

More information on the project can be found at www.mau rycommons.com.