An old middle school is being converted into affordable housing for seniors while the school grounds will buzz with beekeeping, a community garden, and a café in Circleville, Ohio.

The old Everts Middle School in Circleville, Ohio, is being converted into a 49-unit affordable senior housing community by The Woda Group and Pickaway Community Action Organization.
The old Everts Middle School in Circleville, Ohio, is being converted into a 49-unit affordable senior housing community by The Woda Group and Pickaway Community Action Organization.

The Woda Group, a leading affordable housing firm, has begun construction on the $9.2 million development to be named Everts Hill.

The firm is collaborating with nonprofit Pickaway Community Action Organization (PICCA) on the project.

If it had not been for the developers’ efforts, the century-old school building would have been demolished last year, according to officials.

“Circleville community leaders were extremely committed to preserve the academic portion of Everts Middle School because they see the property as an important local symbol of community pride and history,” says Michael Krause, vice president of development at Woda.

The new Everts Hill complex will maintain the charm of the vintage school building while offering modern design and contemporary features in the one- and two-bedroom units. The exterior of the building will largely retain its existing character, with no alteration or addition to the facades or vintage architectural features.

The interior will feature salvaged panel solid wood doors, original repurposed wood moldings, retained slate blackboards, wood windows, and commemorative artwork in common areas. The apartment units will occupy what were former classrooms, libraries, and performance areas.

The 49 units at Everts Hill will be 100% compatible with universal design, with many units offering full American with Disabilities Act accessibility. The facility is projected to earn Enterprise Green Communities certification.

More than housing

The most unique features at Everts Hill will be the community garden and greenhouse, managed apiary, and new garden-to-table cafe that will be part of the new complex. These features will enrich the quality of life for residents and the community at large, says Krause.

Woda and PICCA enlisted support from Ohio State Extension, Ohio Master Gardener Volunteers, and Rhoads Garden Center, to develop the extensive community garden and greenhouse in what was formerly the football field behind the school.

The Scioto Valley Beekeepers will assist to develop an apiary for honey production at the center. The garden complex will provide residents, and others in the neighborhood, an opportunity to try their hands at gardening and beekeeping. The local Stoneridge FFA Chapter will also assist with operations. In addition, on-site classes on gardening and healthy eating will be offered.

The produce and honey harvested at the site will be used in a new commercial kitchen in the school’s former cafeteria area. Connie’s Country Café, an established area restaurant, will manage the café to provide breakfast and lunch options for residents and the community.

It will also create job opportunities and cater meals for a neighboring HeadStart program. The café plans to offer training in restaurant management through The Ohio State University. The city of Circleville donated all of the kitchen equipment, valued at $125,000.

Everts Hill is financed primarily with state and federal housing tax credits. The Ohio Housing Finance Agency allocated $910,400 in tax credits, and the Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing (OCCH) is investing $9.1 million in equity in exchange for those credits. OCCH is also investing $2.2 million in exchange for federal historic rehabilitation tax credits.