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Preserving the past and building a future

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At one time, the former St. Clare Walker High School vocational and agricultural building (above) was slated for demolition. Now, a state grant will help pay to move the former African-American school structure across Route 33 to become a restaurant and micro-brewery pub, all part of a revitalization plan for Cooks Corner. (Photo by Tom Chillemi)

Plans for a micro-brewery, a brew pub restaurant and an event center at Cooks Corner moved forward on January 17 when the Middlesex Economic Development Authority (EDA) signed an agreement leasing part of the former Rappahannock Central Elementary School and a historic vocational building to “Cooks Corner Partners LLC, Jay Shah of Mechanicsville, Shamin Hotels, and Travis Croxton of Rappahannock Oyster Company,” which is headquartered in Topping.

In July 2018, Virginia Governor Ralph S. Northam announced that the Virginia Industrial Revitalization Fund (IRF) had awarded Middlesex County a $480,000 grant for this phase of the proposed Cooks Corner Revitalization Project. The funds are to be used to move the existing white wooden building across Route 33 to a parcel next to the former Rappahannock Central Elementary School. This wooden structure is the former African-American St. Clare Walker High School vocational and agriculture building. It is more than 80 years old.

Under the plan, the cafeteria portion of RCE will become an event center.

The Middlesex EDA is the grantor of the IRF funds and will manage the brewery-special events venue project and will do all reporting to meet the IRF requirements. “It’s great to be moving forward on the project,” said Michelle Brown, the Middlesex Economic Development & Tourism Coordinator.

Brown explained the IRF grant is requiring a project management plan and developer financing confirmation from Cooks Corner Partners LLC as a prerequisite to the contract negotiation with Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), which awarded the IRF grant. The final contract agreement between the EDA and DHCD needs to be ratified before construction can begin.

Read the rest of this story in this week’s Southside Sentinel at newsstands throughout the county, or sign up here to receive a print and/or electronic pdf subscription.

posted 01.30.2019

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