The former Matoaca Elementary School building has been vacant since last spring.
Matoaca District Supervisor Kevin Carroll hosted a community meeting Wednesday evening to present initial concepts for the adaptive reuse of the former Matoaca Elementary School building and campus, which have been vacant since last spring, and solicit input from residents regarding the future of the 11-acre property.
Built in 1937, old Matoaca Elementary was closed in spring 2020 after Chesterfield County Public Schools opened a replacement school on Halloway Ave. It reopened that fall as a temporary relocation site for Ettrick Elementary, which had been demolished to make room for construction of a new building on its Chesterfield Ave. campus.
Now that CCPS is no longer using the property for school purposes, it’s up to the Chesterfield government to determine what to do with it going forward.
“We have a unique opportunity to preserve the building and build something special,” said Carroll during the community meeting, a recording of which will be posted to Chesterfield’s YouTube channel.
Carroll and county staff who spoke at the meeting all emphasized that no final decisions have been made. It’s still early in the process and they will continue to engage with the community in the coming months to collect feedback and incorporate input into a preliminary plan.
Chesterfield met with residents on multiple occasions in 2019 to discuss various options for the former Matoaca Elementary site – including redeploying it as a recreation center or for another government function, creating space for nonprofits and other community uses, or selling the property for redevelopment.
During those meetings, residents expressed support for keeping the school building (either partially or in its entirety), maintaining the grounds as a park and creating indoor/outdoor spaces for community activities. Broader themes also emerged, such as addressing a need for new home ownership opportunities and enhanced placemaking in the village of Matoaca.
The plan Chesterfield presented Wednesday incorporates all of those concepts. It proposes to renovate the two-story main school building to convert it into senior apartments, preserve and redesign the gymnasium for community uses, transition the grounds to a public park, and use county-owned property behind the school to accommodate single-family homesites that nonprofit affordable housing builders would develop and market to first-time homebuyers in the area.
“We’re focused on preserving the fabric of the school, just using it in a different way,” said Stuart Connock, assistant director of planning and construction services for Chesterfield Parks and Recreation.
Nick Feucht, housing and real estate coordinator with the county’s Community Enhancement Department, cited several examples of successful adaptive reuse projects in other Virginia localities that converted vacant schools into housing with quasi-public spaces and/or commercial space.
“A major upside of reusing of the building as housing is that it would enable the possibility of securing a substantial portion of project funding from outside of Chesterfield County, through the pairing of state and federal historic tax credits with housing tax credits,” he said.
Feucht also noted there aren’t many residential options other than single-family in Matoaca; while 55-and-over developments have sprung up in other parts of Chesterfield to meet demand, the village lacks low-maintenance housing that’s easier for seniors to age in place and would allow them to stay in their community.
“Our fastest-growing demographic is 55-and-over,” Carroll said. “The whole purpose of doing this would be to provide something in this part of the county that does not exist. Even though it wouldn’t be a huge project, every little bit counts.”
On Oct. 19, Chesterfield and the Maggie Walker Community Land Trust will hold a groundbreaking for a first-of-its-kind residential redevelopment in Ettrick: a 10-unit subdivision the nonprofit is building on surplus county property, with single-family houses that will be sold for less than $200,000 apiece.
Discussions about the future of old Matoaca Elementary also accompany significant public infrastructure investments the local government is making in South Chesterfield.
In addition to the new Matoaca and Ettrick elementary schools that opened in 2020 and 2021, respectively, Chesterfield is increasing park access by acquiring a 38-acre property along the Appomattox River in Ettrick and a 74-acre tract to expand the Radcliffe Conservation Area.
If approved by voters on Nov. 8, Chesterfield’s 2022 bond referendum package will allocate $12.3 million for a replacement Ettrick fire station and $12.2 million to expand the Ettrick-Matoaca Library from its current 8,000 square feet to 25,000 square feet.
Chesterfield Fire and EMS also is in the process of replacing the Matoaca fire station with a facility that can accommodate larger, modern apparatus.
Finally, more than $140 million in state and regional funding has been committed to construction of the Fall Line Trail, nearly half of which will traverse Chesterfield as it winds north from Petersburg to Ashland.