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Ralph Bunche committee homework due next week

The members of the Ralph Bunche advisory committee, established by the Board of Supervisors last August 2012, each have a homework assignment due at next week’s monthly meeting on Monday, Jan. 7.
The members have been tasked to write up their individual perceptions of how the former Ralph Bunche High School should be used and to list the pros and cons for their ideas. Those are to be presented and shared during the meeting next week.

Next month’s homework assignment for February is to provide and discuss potential funding sources to be used to convert the building and site to its proposed uses.

Both those assignments get to the heart of the committee’s tasks, which are to make recommendations to the county for future uses for the building and the site and to investigate and identify funding sources and develop an implementation schedule.

Whatever is ultimately decided and developed into a recommendation by the committee will eventually go to the county governing body for Supervisors to consider and adopt as a plan to proceed.

In the meantime, the committee has several decisions.

NO RESTRICTIONS ON BUILDING USE OR RENOVATIONS
This month’s homework assignment for committee members follows last month’s meeting in December, when Joanie Evans from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources provided more explanation about Ralph Bunche’s historic designation.

Evans told the group at the Dec. 3 meeting that the building was provided an honorary designation on and the Virginia Landmarks Register and on the National Register of Historic Places because it was determined to be of historic significance due to its location, ethnic heritage and social history from 1949 to 1968.

Those designations were obtained by the alumni association in spring 2006, with authorization by then-owner, the King George School Board. The county is the current owner of the building.

The alumni were also instrumental in getting the state to approve the site for a historical road marker, expected to be installed and celebrated in May 2013.

The fact that the designation is in the historical aspect of the site and not the building itself, means there are no restrictions on renovations or updates to the building that might affect its current status as a historical listing.

Evans also said the historical designation includes all the buildings on the site, including the former school building, the adjacent shop building, and the training school site.

She noted that while there are no regulations associated with this designation, adding, “It does not bind you or tie you in any way.” But she added, “We do encourage you to keep its integrity.”

Evans said she thought the building was in great shape, saying there is much of the original material existing underneath the wall paneling and dropped ceilings that were added later.

She noted that the original doors are intact in both sections and the gymnasium floor is the original, though with some damage. She also cited the beauty of the proscenium arch over the stage in the gym. In addition she noted that the bathrooms contain their original marble.

She encouraged the committee to rehabilitate at least a portion of the building, saying, “Some of the buildings that I’ve seen rehabilitated are just beautiful and useful for today.”

Evans urged that the building footprint remain as is, or at least not tamper with changes to the façade. If an addition is desired to the existing building, her suggestion was to add onto it at the back.

She also spoke about another older school that was located on the edge of the existing parking lot.

The King George Training School for Negro Students was built in 1916 and demolished circa 1970, with traces of the former building still remaining in place. Evans encouraged posting of signage to tell about that earlier building without disturbing the existing foundations.

USES FOR ENTIRE ACREAGE OR JUST THE PARCEL?
The Ralph Bunche building is located on 7.8 acres of a larger 33.2 acre site on the east side of US 301, north of the Circle intersection at Route 205.

There has been some question about how far the committee’s recommendations should go.

One option would be to limit recommendations for uses of the property to the existing building and its renovations and rehabilitation, along with the use of the small parcel on which it is located.

It has not been decided whether to extend its purview to the rest of the undeveloped acreage.

The other option is to also explore uses for other sections of the larger acreage and make recommendations that might ensure that compatible uses would eventually take place near the designated historic school site.

There is a strong desire exhibited by the committee members for the building to house a Civil Rights museum. The idea has been expressed to provide displays about the building’s history and to recreate and furnish some classrooms and other rooms in the building as a museum to provide a backdrop to the history that the building represents in the nation’s early civil rights achievements in the modern era.

Since there are no restrictions on renovations or changes that can be made to the building, more flexibility is available for renovations going forward.

There has been discussion of using a portion of the building for such things as an events venue or cultural arts center. There has also been mention of co-locating the King George Museum on the site or for other uses.

COMMITTEE MEMBERS
The committee is composed of 14 members, with five from the Ralph Bunch Alumni Association: Nadine Lucas (chairman), Elaine Harvey (vice chairman), Gwendolyn Lewis, Claudette Jordan, and James Temple Johnson. Two members represent the King George Historical Society: Jean Hudson Elizabeth Lee. There is one representative from the King George Chamber of Commerce, Anita Churchill. There are two members of the School Board: John Davis and Ken Novell, and two members from the Board of Supervisors: Ruby Brabo and John LoBuglio. Two other members are from county staff: Director of Economic Development Nicole Thompson and Director of Parks & Recreation Tim Smith.

MEETING DATE, TIME & PLACE
Next week’s meeting of the Ralph Bunche Advisory committee is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 7, at 6 p.m. in the board room of the Revercomb Administration building, located behind the King George Courthouse located on Route 3 (Kings Hwy).

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