Petersburg councilmembers voice frustrations over school construction timeline: ‘It looks a mess over there’

Posted at 10:55 PM, Sep 19, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-20 06:37:24-04

PETERSBURG, Va. -- The Petersburg City Council demanded an update from developers at a Tuesday night council meeting.

It has now been two years with no construction beginning on the multi-million dollar project that is set to transform an entire Petersburg neighborhood.

Some Petersburg City Council members had choice words for the Virginia Avenue School developer Avram Fechter.

“If you love the city you would’ve done what you said years ago. That place looks a mess over there,” said Petersburg City Council Member Marlow Jones.

The project is supposed to convert the empty school building into affordable apartments while also building 50 new homes on the streets surrounding the old school.

CBS 6 senior report Wayne Covil recently shared the voices of several concerned residents who say the paused project has led to the project being run down further and is bringing down streets and the community.

Fechter said the project delay is due to two issues. He said it had been delayed because of state bond funding that ran out in 2022 and the general contractor dropping out. Fechter said they’ve secured the bond funding, and signed an intent letter with new contractor Davis Brothers Construction this week.

“I know it has been frustrating for you, the neighborhood. This has taken longer than any of us thought it would and we do greatly apologize for that. We feel horrible about it,” Fechter said.

Developers said they don’t anticipate starting to dig on the property until Thanksgiving and expect it could take 18 months to complete because of COVID delays with materials. Fechter acknowledged that they feel the personal and financial pains of the delay but see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Some city council members like Howard Myers expressed that they appreciated the update and believed he should not be beaten up for the delays because the project is now moving forward.

However, other council members expressed they are skeptical that construction will begin by Thanksgiving.

“I’m going to make sure I stay on your butt. I’m going to make sure of it,” said Jones.

The developers stated at the meeting that they have permits for everything. The City council asked in the interim for the property to be cleaned up and for vandalism to be removed.

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email to send a tip.

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