Local developer saving two former school buildings by converting them into apartments

Both projects made progress this week with ribbon cutting, approval of solar panels

Despite being severely damaged in a fire last year, the redevelopment of the old Bedford Middle School continues.

BEDFORD, Va. – Thursday’s ribbon-cutting marked the completion of a new apartment complex in the Madison Heights area of Amherst County, as Waukeshaw Development converted the old Phelps Elementary School.

“It’s really fulfilling for us, as a company, to see it come together,” said Emily Sanfratella, COO of Waukeshaw Development Inc.

The project was four years in the making and consists of 41 units, both one-and-two-bedroom apartments.

Along with stainless steel appliances and natural lighting, the $6 million building is a pet-friendly complex with a dog washing station.

The development group wants the new features to attract people to the area.

“We hope our development spurs on other development, whether that’s apartment buildings or new businesses or people just moving to the area,” said Sanfratella.

To help bring people over to Bedford County, Waukeshaw Development’s converting the old Bedford Middle School into apartments and a hotel. The target completion date is scheduled for Summer or Fall 2023.

The site made news last year when it was set on fire.

We’re told the 60 apartments and 34 hotel rooms will look similar to the new ones opened Thursday. What makes the Bedford project different is that town council approved the use of solar panels Tuesday.

“It’s exciting for us to be able to be totally off the grid and to be able to generate power and give it back. It’s really a marketing win for us because people want to live in a place that they know is sustainable,” said Sanfratella.

“I think it will be a really great benefit to the project and on the operational side, and I’m starting to think more and more about energy-efficient things we can do to be good stewards,” said Dave McCormack, president of Waukeshaw Development Inc.

The Bedford campus consists of four buildings, but no word on how many panels will be installed.

The total construction project costs about $17 million.

“[Converting] a school is really complex. There’s a lot of big, open spaces, giant hallways; all that stuff we have to fix up. And then, of course, the added craziness is we had the arson [last year],” said McCormack.

About the Author:

Tim Harfmann joined the 10 News team in September 2020 and works at the station's Lynchburg bureau.