Supervisors discuss future of historic, PWA-era Arcola School
The school building, built in 1939 as part of the PWA and listed in National Register of Historic Places and Virginia Landmarks Register, has been vacant since 2006, when its operations as a community center were shifted to the Dulles South Multipurpose Center in South Riding.
Cost is the primary concern pertaining to the Old Arcola School project. Years-old estimates of renovating and refurbishing the building are listed at more than $5 million, though the current price tag is probably closer to $10 million, according to county staff. Because of the financial pressures, Supervisor Janet Clarke (R-Blue Ridge), who represents the area of the school, agreed to have the item sent to finance committee rather than the Transportation and Land Use Committee, which is what she originally suggested.
“There is no debt capacity, no cash capacity in the six-year Capital Improvements Plan to do this,” said Supervisor Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn), chairman of the board's finance committee. “So, it is ultimately a financial issue.”
If the supervisors do end up willing to spend millions for renovations, how the county will put to use the building is a major outstanding question. Supervisors were at odds over whether a preschool would be appropriate at the site – given the busy corridor and the fact the county doesn't currently service a stand-alone preschool without outside partnerships. Concerns were also voiced over whether there would be demand for a new community center at the location, 24244 Gum Spring Road, Sterling.
As a county asset, the Old Arcola School and property could generate interest on the open market, as well.
“There are a lot of issues that we're going to have to work through here,” said Supervisor Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles). “If there's private sector interest I think we should be open to that, if there's nonprofit interest then I'm open to that. But, in terms of a county facility investment, the bar's going to be pretty high.”
The Old Arcola School was the only Public Works Administration school and the fifth PWA project constructed in Loudoun, according to National Parks Service documents, which go on to state "the school is a classic example of PWA architecture and the local, state and national civic pride for which it stood."