After living in the Frank Roane Apartments for about seven years, Alma Smith enjoys her new stove and now is able to reach the top of her cabinets, but she misses a wall that once separated the kitchen from the living area.
"But otherwise, I love it," Smith said of her newly renovated unit.
Residents such as Smith are moving back into the Frank Roane Apartments, a 26-unit building that is in the final stages of a roughly $3.5 million renovation project.
The building is one of several properties Lynchburg Covenant Fellowship manages as housing for lower-income and disabled residents. Built in 1899, the former Lynchburg High School, and later Frank Roane Elementary School, was converted to apartments in 1980. Interior space where instruction once was provided now serves as living quarters for residents age 62 years and older.
To accommodate renovations that began in January, residents were moved out of the building and temporarily settled into other area apartments. LCF began moving residents back into Frank Roane in September.
Upgrades in the building include windows that have been reworked, new flooring, and the replacement of baseboard heaters with energy-efficient "mini-split" wall units, which are expected to decrease energy bills.
Many energy measures were under-taken "to make this beautiful old building energy efficient," LCF Associate Director Connie Snavely said.
"When the building was built, they didn’t have to think of those kinds of things then."
Doorways have been widened, cabinets were lowered and appliances have front-facing knobs.
An intercom system that provided visitor access into the building was present before the renovations, but a new system connects to residents’ telephones so residents no longer have to reach a wall-unit intercom inside their apartment.
Each apartment meets universal design, which allows for easier navigation around the unit, she said, while five apartments have accessibility features that meet requirements of the Americans for Disability Act. A sprinkler system also has been installed throughout the building.
Universal design as well as ADA compliant features "allows us to provide better housing to those folks who need those features," Snaveley said.
The building still retains a few items from its educational past such as the flooring in the building’s foyer that once were classroom blackboards.
The project cost around $3.5 million and funding sources include low-income tax credits, state and federal historic tax credits, HOME funds from the city of Lynchburg as well as a low-interest loan from the Virginia Housing Development Authority.
"We’re real happy how everything turned out," Snavely said.