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Old Zebulon School project underway

The Old Zebulon School has weathered another winter and organizers of the OZS fundraiser are hoping the school will have a new roof before the next winter season comes. The community helped raise more than $135,000 to save the old school and make it a prominent place in Zebulon again but many steps have to be taken before the school can be completely renovated. Work on the OZS should start in early summer. After much consideration of how the building can ‘˜pay for itself’ after the completion of renovations, it has been determined that the building will be an AirBnB style hotel with 13 rooms. ’A conservative estimate of occupancy rates will leave us in the black. We are looking at contracting with a firm who manages properties like this – and it will mean jobs for local folks as well. Pike has more than seven event venues but no hotel rooms beyond two BnBs. We think this use is a ‘˜win-win’ for Pike County and downtown Zebulon,’ said OZS committee member Anna Evans. ‘On the auditorium side, we are committed to recruiting a high-end, full-service restaurant. The design will retain the beautiful stage and allow events of all types to be held there. OZS supporters hope to receive a federal Redevelopment Grant of $750,000 that can be used to stabilize the building and fix the auditorium. The total cost is expected to be around $2.4 million and other grants will be sought as well. ’We are working on the multiple steps of applying for the Redevelopment Grant from the state (it’s the same program that brought the west side of the courthouse square back to life). We are closing in on the Stage 1 request which will clear the debris, stabilize the walls and put a roof on the building,’ said Curry. To be considered for the grant, the school has to be eligible for a listing on the National Register of Historic Places and part one of that application has been submitted. A detailed architectural plan that conforms to the Secretary of the Interior’s requirements for rehabilitation must also be submitted. The group is also working on financial estimates, vetting contractors, setting up a business plan to qualify for tax credits and other considerations that will allow the project to use around $100,000 of the Zebulon Downtown Development Authority’s Revolving Loan Fund as a one-time grant. Plans for the auditorium are to transform it into a restaurant and performance venue with the original stage as the centerpiece of a space that will attract patrons and revenue. ’We believe all of these options will meet our financial obligations and be much-needed resources for a vibrant downtown. If you are interested in seeing the preliminary architectural plans, they can be viewed at A Novel Experience anytime during opening hours,’ said Curry. ‘We are ever mindful of your contribution and those of our community that made this project possible. We want you to know that we are committed to making the Old Zebulon School a beautiful, enduring treasure for our community.’ The team has decided to apply for funding in two phases – the first would stabilize the walls and roof and the second would pay for final exterior and interior design and construction. ’The good news from our structural engineer is that he thinks we can shore up the brick veneer walls in the back – and save them,’ said Curry. ‘The best thing about this project is the support of our community. Our donors believed that the school could be saved if we could just start and now that we have put the foundation of paper in place, we can’t wait to see the real, school-saving, remove-the-rubble-and-put-the-roof-on work begin.’

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