One of the oldest school buildings in St. Petersburg is getting new life.
The former Glenoaks Elementary School at 1900 12th St. S. is being turned into affordable apartments for veterans as part of an adaptive reuse of the building approved Oct. 13 by the St. Petersburg Community Planning and Preservation Commission.
“Our overall goal is safe, clean housing and a great place for vets to live,” said Kori Monroe, an agent for Vets Inc. Place of Potential Center, a veteran-operated private not-for-profit.
The organization bought the property in March for $783,800, according to Pinellas County property records. It currently operates a resource center at the site, offering supportive services to vets. It is acquiring the leasehold rights to the 30,000-square-foot building, so it can provide transitional and permanent housing for 38 veterans. The organization is working with the Veterans Administration and will offer services aimed at independent living.
“In our talks with the vets, we have come to discover that a lot of these guys are used to being taken care of when it comes to paying bills and doing everyday things that we take for granted. To some of these guys, that’s a hardship for them. So when they are placed in rehab and treatment centers, even though they’ve accomplished the goal as far as going through training and service, they still find it hard to actually go out and live on their own,” Monroe said. “This will be a replica of what the VA is doing, but it’s a permanent situation so they don’t have to guess where they will go in three or four months or they won’t have to worry about paying bills. They can live life to its fullest. That’s our overall goal and what we hope to accomplish with this community.”
The apartments will be reconfigured from the existing classroom layout, with modifications to add food preparation and bathroom facilities in each unit. Each of the planned apartments will be small, ranging from 188 square feet to 409 square feet, and averaging about 281 square feet. There also will be a kitchen in a common area for residents.
The building dates back to 1914 and was one of the first elementary schools in the city, built in what was then a cow pasture, according to a memo by the city staff to the planning and preservation commission. The Pinellas County School Board closed it, along with several other southside schools, in 1974.
The commission voted to add the building as a local historic landmark to the St. Petersburg Register of Historic Places, approved an adaptive reuse request and agreed to allow a small reduction in the number of required parking spaces onsite.
Emily Elwyn, a volunteer with Preserve the ‘Burg, said the organization strongly supports the project.
“Too often people think of historic preservation and affordable housing as not compatible when really we know they are synergistic goals, and this is a great example of that. This project can serve as an example of how to reuse historic buildings as well as how landmark designation can be advantageous in doing this,” Elwyn said.
Designating the property as local historic landmark allows the owner to pursue adaptive reuse, certain tax credits and exemptions, and variances, the staff memo said. Place of Potential also plans to apply to the South St. Petersburg CRA for funding.
Commission staff cited other examples of adaptive reuse for retired school buildings, including The Euclid School at 1090 10th St. N., which now has 16 multifamily units, and the original St. Petersburg (Mirror Lake) High School at 701 Mirror Lake Dr. N., with 70 multifamily units.