By Derrick Perkins
The sale of the former Carver Nursery School — announced last week after months of anticipation — will see the building once again serve local children as a pediatric dental office.
More importantly, the estimated $695,000 deal between local developer William Cromley and VSPD Properties LLC settles a longstanding fight for the building’s future.
Cromley bought the 200 block N. Fayette St. building for a little less than $500,000 about five years ago, but his plan to demolish it sparked backlash from residents who consider the property as one of the few remaining vestiges of the Parker-Gray neighborhood. Though Cromley received the city’s go-ahead to supplant the rundown structure with condos, opponents successfully sued to prevent demolition.
The settlement — struck between Cromley, his critics and city officials — put the project on hold for two years, as all sides looked for a buyer interested in preserving the building.
Not a single interested party stepped forward.
But when the deadline passed in February, which put the property’s future back in Cromley’s hands, the developer announced a change of heart. And shortly thereafter Cromley revealed he had found a prospective buyer, though he said little else about the pending deal or interested party at the time.
He still is keeping mum on the people behind VSPD — at their behest — but said the reason behind their anonymity was “nothing nefarious” and that their identities will become public knowledge as they renovate and expand the building. In the meantime, Cromley is pleased to put the property, and land-use battle, behind him.
“The good news for the neighborhood: It’s an appropriate use and a good community use,” he said. “Again, I’m really happy with the outcome.”
His former critics agree with him — for the most part. Boyd Walker and Gwendolyn Day-Fuller, who spearheaded the campaign to save the building, applauded the move.
Still, they had hoped the building might have been used in a way that paid homage to its past role in the historically black community. Built in the 1940s, the schoolhouse served local black children before transforming into an American Legion post.
“I’m very happy that it’s not going to be demolished; I would have loved to have seen it used as a school or something like that. But certainly I’m happy it will be used in a positive manner,” Day-Fuller said. “I’m happy to see that it will serve children in one way at least.”
While Day-Fuller and Walker celebrated the salvation of a neighborhood landmark, Cromley noted the building’s preservation came with a cost: a shining example of environmentally friendly modern architecture.
“When things are preserved, things are lost. What I had designed there was cutting-edge architecture with cutting-edge environmental technology,” Cromley said. “I’ll never get that opportunity again, nor will the city get that opportunity again to get that type of building. I certainly don’t want to sound like sour grapes, but it should be mentioned.”