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In Ettrick, affordable homes are planned for site of empty elementary school annex

In Ettrick, affordable homes are planned for site of empty elementary school annex

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After the Ettrick Elementary School Annex closed its doors to students decades ago, the building was reused as county storage space.

In the coming weeks, that building on Dupuy Road will be demolished as the Maggie Walker Land Trust pursues another use for the 5 acres where the annex rests. The land trust is planning to redevelop the site into affordable single-family homes and perhaps a community garden.

“We are not trying to maximize price here because we want these to be affordable to residents of this community,” Erica Sims, CEO of the Maggie Walker Land Trust, said last week.

Land trust and county officials said specifics of the plan — such as how many homes could be built and what the income qualifications would be for homebuyers — still need to be worked out.

Laura Lafayette, the chairwoman of the land trust, stressed that specifics about the number of homes that could be built will be hammered out through conversations with the community.

“We want to build a product where the people who have called Ettrick home for many, many years, A. could afford, and B. would be proud of,” Lafayette said.

Former Matoaca District Supervisor Steve Elswick said at a November work session that the county had looked at what it would take to renovate the old annex, but found that it had deteriorated so much that it could cost too much to fix up.

Chesterfield County officials voted to donate the annex property to the land trust after a December public hearing. The county last year picked the nonprofit trust to act as the county’s land bank that would acquire underused, vacant and surplus properties with an eye toward getting them back on the tax rolls.

Tina McCray, a member of the Concerned Citizens of Ettrick, told supervisors at the December hearing that the community had several meetings about the fate of the annex property.

“Most of the citizens have agreed that this is the best opportunity for our community, and we look forward to having this opportunity to have more homeownership developed in our community,” McCray said.

The annex building rests in an area where surrounding homes rest on lots covering more than an acre, said Sims, adding that could mean perhaps five homes might be built on the annex property.

“We don’t want to make the final decision,” Sims said of the number of homes that would be built on the acreage. “We want this to be a conversation with the community.”

The red-brick building was a school until 1988, when students were transferred to a newly expanded Ettrick Elementary School on Chesterfield Avenue, according to an announcement published that year in The Richmond News Leader. The afternoon newspaper reported in a 1989 article that the school had been used by students in kindergarten through the second grade, and that the county started using it as storage space after the pupils moved to their new school.

Over the years, the Chesterfield school system has given away outdated textbooks to the community at the annex.

Spare furniture for the school system has also been housed there over the years, said Daniel Cohen, Chesterfield’s director of community enhancement.

The land trust plans to apply for a zoning change as part of its efforts to develop the annex site. The trust, which also works to create affordable housing in Richmond, has bought and renovated several homes in Chesterfield over the past year. While it has been renovating Chesterfield homes here and there, Cohen noted that the annex project marks the first time the trust will be taking over a spare piece of land and redeveloping it.

“It’s going to be the example that everyone is going to point to in terms of the success of this relationship,” Cohen said, “of having this land bank in the county.”

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