The Highland Center Begins Renovation

One of Highland County’s historic iconic buildings is about to receive a much needed and long awaited facelift and revitalization. Preliminary construction began this week at The Highland Center in Monterey, which is housed in the old Highland High and elementary school building off of Spruce Street. The renovation has been in the planning stages for many years, and within the last year, sufficient funding was acquired to undertake the $3 million project.

Sarah Collins, Special Projects Coordinator and management assistant for the renovation for The Center explained the history of the building.

“The Highland Center was constructed in 1922 as a high school for Highland County and the town of Monterey. At one point it became the elementary school for the entire county, as the school system gradually consolidated, and then it eventually shut down as a school building in 1997. So, since about 1999, The Highland Center has been working on putting together enough funding to do a multi-million dollar renovation to the building. The building has not been worked on, in it’s entirety, since 1922, when it was constructed.”

She spoke about the planned upgrades and funding partners.

“So we have contracted with Lantz Construction, out of Broadway, Virginia. They are the same contractor that has done The Medical Center, there in Monterey. They’ll start with the removal of the addition that was put on in the 1950’s, and then their renovations will include a new addition that will match the aesthetic of historic building much more accurately, and will give us some more space, and especially more usable space.

“They’ll renovate the kitchen, and upgrade some of the services to the entire building. The current pantry will become a small auxiliary kitchen, so we can actually have two kitchen users at any one point in time. We’ll get an upgraded walk-in freezer and refrigerator as part of the renovations, and that’s provided by funding from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

“So the rooms on the northern end of the building, on the main floor, two of them are being combined and turned into a retreat/conference center. The southern side of the building will be restored to historic aesthetic. We are keeping all of the historic layout of those rooms, and working on restoring the historic plaster and those sorts of things, and the wood floors that are existing, we’re going to restore throughout the building.”

“Some of our other funders include the Economic Development Administration, which is the Federal EDA. ARC, the Appalachian Regional Commission, and that’s being administered by the Virginia DHCD, the Department of Housing and Community Development. Also some of our funding is coming from VDOT, the Virginia Department of Transportation, and one of the things that the VDOT grants are focusing on is ADA accessibility, so our renovation will include the construction of an elevator in the new addition that will service the entire building, and newly constructed ramps that will actually be up to ADA code. The VDOT funding will also restore our historic windows throughout the building.”

Many private donations have been made towards the project as well.

Construction is scheduled to take less than a year.

“Work started with the contractor on March 23rd – they are continuing to work on small pieces of the work outside while we continue to vacate the building. We are entirely vacating the building by April 6th, and then construction will be complete by January 29th, 2016.”

Story By

Scott Smith

Scott Smith is the General Manager for Allegheny Mountain Radio and Station Coordinator and News Reporter for WVLS. Scott’s family has deep roots in Highland County. While he did not grow up here, he spent as much time as possible on the family farm, and eventually moved to Highland to continue the tradition, which he still pursues with his cousin. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t pay all the bills, so he has previously taken other jobs to support his farming hobby, including pressman/writer for The Recorder, and Ag Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center. He lives in Hightown with wife Michelle and son Ethan. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time, especially to ride his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

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