Frustration grows as neighbors wait for developers to clean up Virginia Avenue School site

Posted at 4:09 PM, Oct 20, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-20 17:57:32-04

PETERSBURG, Va. -- One month after a developer told the City of Petersburg he planned to clean up the area around his Virginia Avenue School project, trash still litters the property, fencing around the building remains broken in places, and glass from broken windows is scattered around the area.

When developer Avram Fechter bought the property two years ago, he said he planned to convert the empty school building into affordable apartments while also building 50 new homes on the streets surrounding the old school.

Earlier this fall, he appeared before Petetsburg City Council to explain why the project was delayed.

He said state bond funding ran out in 2022 and a previous general contractor dropped out.

“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.

He said construction would not begin until Thanksgiving 2023, but before then pledged to clean up the area.

But that still has not happened.

Virginia Avenue School update

"It just makes me sick every time I come out there on this porch," neighbor Mary Phillips said in an October interview. "I pray every day that they’ll do something with this building before I’m gone.”

The 82-year-old woman called the graffiti-covered, dilapidated property "terrible."

"Some of the stuff those kids have written on that school wall, it’s a shame and a disgrace. Somebody needs to whitewash it off, even before they do something to that school," Phillips said.

Virginia Avenue School update

"It’s a month gone by, what’s the problem here," neighbor Ashford Massenbery said about the lack of cleanup. "It looks nasty and filthy,"

Neighbor Norman Hamm, who walks his dog near the school property almost every day, said the area is in real need of affordable housing.

Virginia Avenue School update

"Finding out that’s what it was purchased for and then left to rot, it’s pretty upsetting," Hamm said. "It’s dilapidated, you know, it’s definitely completely out of care. It tends to be dirty, people will throw their trash here."

Petersburg City Council member Howard Myers told Wayne Covil he'd been in contact with the developer who said clean-up would begin when the contract was signed with the contractor. Myers said he expected that to happen very soon.

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