PETERSBURG, Va. -- With more than $25 million being spent, an entire neighborhood in Petersburg is about to see a dramatic change.
The project is expected to bring in more than $100,000 in taxes every year for the city of Petersburg.
"You'll have a cleaner and safer and better neighborhood," Howard Myers, with the Petersburg City Council fifth Ward, said.
The Delectable Heights neighborhood will see the long empty and neglected Virginia Avenue School transformed over the next two years.
"So in this case, we're putting the 49 senior apartments in Virginia Avenue School. At the same time, we're going to build 47 new houses in the blocks around the school," Avram Fechter with Equity Plus said.
All properties involved had two things in common.
"All the land that we are working with, both the school and the lots were previously owned by the city, generating no tax revenue," Fechter said.
This type of investment and massive build-out will have a dramatic effect not just on the aesthetics of the community but on the people already living here.
"You can't drop one new house in a community and expect that to change how people are living. If you're going to come in and make a change, you have to do it in a big way so people notice it," Fetcher said.
The city first announced the plans for the school and vacant lots in June of last year. Two weeks later, the school caught fire.
While the fire was intense, it didn't do enough damage to stop the proposed renovations.
After the initial details were released last June, several private properties in the area began to be renovated.
"We've noticed there is an improvement to some of the existing houses in the neighborhood," Fechter said.
The first houses will be ready to be occupied by the end of the year. Apartments in the school are expected to be ready by the third quarter of 2023.
With the new apartments and houses, it is expected that the area may see a reduction in crime.
"We're looking forward to this coming to our city, restoring this neighborhood, revitalizing this neighborhood and as a result of that, we're looking forward to a reduction of crime in this area," Petersburg Police Chief Travis Christian said.
"If you have more eyes on the street and you have more people taking pride in the community around then, it has a ripple effect," Fechter said.
The school system will also see the company behind the project donate a one-time gift of more than $700,000 for the school's capital improvement program.