Organization gets input on future of old school property
by Cris Ritchie
HAZARD – One of Hazard’s oldest existing structures remains on tap for demolition, though its removal from the streetscape will make room for up to five new houses on one of the city’s most historic streets.
The old school on lower Broadway was built in 1912 and became the first public high school in Hazard. Thirteen years later, a new high school was added on Baker Street, while the school on Broadway became a grade school. During its lifetime, the building also served as the first home for Hazard Community College, and along with the administrative offices for the Hazard city schools, the Kentucky Valley Education Cooperative shared space there for a number of years.
The city school board in 2012 elected to auction off the building. It was purchased for $1,000 by the Housing Development Alliance, a non-profit organization in Perry County tasked with providing affordable housing to local residents. The building has been vacant since 2007 when the school board moved its administrative office to Main Street, and its condition has deteriorated during that time.
When the Alliance opted to purchase the property last year, the purchase came with the stipulation that the dilapidated building must be demolished. Officials hosted a public meeting in Hazard Wednesday evening, during which they heard from local residents about what they would like to see once the building is removed.
“Nobody at that meeting really voiced any opposition to demolishing the building,” said Scott McReynolds, director of the Housing Development Alliance. “Everybody kind of agreed it was a shame the building was in such shape that it had to come down, but I think everybody agreed that it had to come down.”
Since the building could potentially be listed as an historic property, there are certain guidelines the Alliance must meet before the old school can be destructed. Wednesday’s meeting was a step in that direction to obtain input from the public, and much of the talk centered on what to do once the building is gone, McReynolds said.
The Housing Development Alliance will build four to five family houses on the property, and local residents did show some concern about how those new homes would complement existing structures in the neighborhood.
“We’ll look at that, whether we can vary (designs), and obviously we don’t want to build five houses that look exactly alike,” McReynolds said, adding they will also try to incorporate some of the suggestions mentioned on Wednesday. One thing he noted about the new homes is that they will include street-level parking.
And though the building may be demolished, McReynolds said he expects the Alliance will hire an archivist to catalogue the building before any demolition is underway. There currently is no time frame for when that may begin.
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