By Betsy Finklea
A proposed project for the J.V. Martin Junior High School property owned by the Dillon Historic School Foundation was presented at the Dillon City Council’s August meeting.
Mary Miller, a member of the Dillon Historic School Foundation, introduced Tonya Haddock, the managing partner of Cadence Development. Miller said they were on the way to making their dream a reality of getting into the auditorium and doing something with J.V. Martin.
Haddock said first and foremost, she was a historic preservationist. She accidentally came across this property while looking at properties that were endangered in South Carolina. She sent a letter to the Dillon Historic School Foundation, and they responded. It was then that they started a conversation about what she does.
Haddock said she does historic preservation in conjunction with affordable housing. As they were talking, a Section 202 grant came up through HUD. The grant was for senior housing for ages 62 and older. She said this would afford them the opportunity to do “some pretty amazing things” with this property. She said they want to restore the auditorium back to its original state. They will lease it back to the DHSF, and DHSF will be able to do theatre shows out of there and things of that nature.
Haddock said they will have 33 one-bedroom apartments for seniors and will do social and supportive services not just for the people who live there, but also for the community at large.
Haddock said they want to re-do the gymnasium, have a beauty parlor and a barbershop on location, and offer classes like yoga and art.
She said their vision is to reinvent while still using the bones of the property bringing it back to a state to be a beautiful gateway back to the downtown area.
Haddcock said they are applying for a grant in a competitive process, and they have to have some leveraging of local funding into the property.
They reached out to City Manager Glen Wagner to discuss zoning of the property and said they were looking for a low interest loan of $250,000 to increase their odds of getting the grant.
There is $50 million available through HUD. This is a nationwide competition, but she said they believe with the supportive services that they were going to offer and with the green energy efficient things they were going to do such as car chargers, solar benches that will charge phones and where one can use a laptop, and gray water systems that it will improve their chances. She said this will bring the property back to what it was but just a newer version.
This is not assisted living. This is senior housing, an apartment, designed to allow people to age in place. These apartments are for independent people who want to do things that bring them back to the community. She said these people might want to do certain programs such as community gardening, taking a dance class, listening to a lecture, etc.
She told council members to think of this as a one-bedroom apartment. They will have a kitchen in the apartment, but they want to utilize the kitchen at the school and offer cooking classes. In accordance with the standards, the apartments must be 750 sq. ft., but no larger than 950 sq. ft.
The approximate monthly rent will be $595 and includes water and sewer, but not utilities.
Haddock said they met with Rep. Jackie Hayes and Sen. Kent Williams. They were extremely supportive of what they were trying to do with the property. She said they felt they might be able to provide the funding to the city for the project. She said there are economic development funds that they may be able to secure.
Mayor Pro-Tem Phil Wallace said he spoke with Rep. Hayes, and this was not funding that they could get in 8-10 days, but they were pretty sure they could get the money. Wallace said they had an opportunity for a $12 million investment into the community, and they didn’t want $250,000 to hold it up, but Rep. Hayes couldn’t get the funds quickly enough in such a short time in order to apply for the grant.
Haddock was asking for a very soft commitment letter saying the funding was contingent upon getting the grant and things of that nature. They are not on the hook unless they find out that they are getting the money.
Haddock said she had done about 12 of these developments in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia.
Councilman Johnny Eller made the motion to give the commitment letter with a second by Councilman Tim Cousar. The motion was approved. The group will find out whether or not they will get the grant in December.
By Betsy Finklea