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Public hearing reviews plans for repurposing high school

By Lauren Johnson

Plans for renovating the Academy Street High School will be the topic of a public hearing at 10 a.m. Tuesday at City Hall.

The hearing begins at 10 a.m. in the Council Chambers, located at 301 Charles W. Meeks Avenue, Troy, AL.

The purpose of the public hearing is to discuss the city’s submission of an application for the Program Year 2020 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to begin renovations of the historic Academy Street High School.

“Our plans for the Community Development Block Grant funds is for the rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of a portion of the historic Academy Street High School as a community and cultural arts center, which will be a cornerstone to improving the surrounding community,” said Melissa Sanders, planning and zoning administrator for the city.

The City of Troy is seeking CDBG Community enhancement funds to renovate a portion of the first floor of the main academic building including the foyer, bathrooms, front office, prep area, and the auditorium.

Sanders said this work would be the first phase of the restoration, due to costs and funding. Within this phase, no improvements are proposed for the classroom, gymnasium, agricultural buildings, or green space.

The project took shape in 2017 as a desire repurpose the Historic Academy Street High School as a cultural arts and community center. A year later, DesignAlabama and community leaders developed a plan for the school with the help of public input.

“The Academy Street High School site is a remembrance of the hard work and perseverance of those who were involved in the school and was crucial in the educational development among the African-American community in Troy,” said Troy Mayor Jason Reeves.

“This site, through capital enhancements, can be more than a monument to the community. It can be put into use for community meetings, programs, and events and also be used as a catalyst to more improvements in the area.”

The Academy Street High School has played an important role in the educational system of Troy. Sanders said the original school on this site was built in 1906 to meet the needs of African-American students in this town, and in its first year, the school consisted of one teacher and two grades.

By 1927, this high school grew to include junior high grades and had a faculty of six teachers and six classrooms. Over the years, Academy Street High School evolved to become a senior high school with a new program.

“In 1946, the building was destroyed by a fire, thus bringing setbacks and problems,” Sanders said. “But hard work and sacrifices showed profit when a new brick building was erected in 1948.”

The school served the African-American community from 1946 to 1970 until the Troy City School system integrated, and the class of 1970 was the last graduating class.

“Until closing, it provided outstanding educational opportunities for African-American students, who have made and continue to make many contributions in their community and places throughout the country and the world,” Sanders said.

Sanders said many of these students still come back to this historic place and hold reunions to reflect upon the past and to remember those individuals who contributed so much to the education of African-American students.

“This school proudly stands as a reminder to all of those who fought for an equal education,” Sanders said.

Since closing, the building has served host for many activities from class reunions to athletic events and even a voting center. Sanders stated that in 2012, this high school was officially listed on the Alabama Register of Historic Landmarks and Heritage.

“Many great people came through this school, and the history and hard work that it represents is important to our community and its citizens,” Sanders said.

The city is interested in obtaining all citizens’ input on community development needs within the city. As part of the hearing process, citizens will be asked to verbally assist in the completion of a Needs Assessment document.

The document will detail what the residents feel are the strengths and weaknesses of the community. The City needs as much local participation as possible in order to reflect the true desires of the community as a whole, as well as the comments relating to the proposed project application.

“The city values public input; therefore, we have several ways to show support and provide comments regarding this application,” Sanders said.

Due to COVID-19, there are alternate methods to show your support and to submit your comments for this 2020 CDBG Application. Visit www.troyal.gov/Academy for the survey link to submit your name and address to show your support.

There is also an optional area for comments of support for the renovation and reuse of the Historic Academy Street High School and this project. Email comments will also be accepted at academy@troyal.gov.

The support and comments from the 2019 CDBG Application and Public Hearing will also be included within the 2020 application. If you choose to attend the meeting, please follow social distancing rules.