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Community Holds Groundbreaking of Jefferson School Complex
Move Follows Years of Planning
Posted Date: 9/14/2011

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA – The City of Charlottesville is proud to announce the official groundbreaking of the Jefferson School Project, owned and managed by Jefferson School Community Partnership, L.L. L. P (“Jefferson School Partners”). The event featured city leaders, community partners, and alumni of the historic school.

The building on Fourth Street, NE has been largely vacant since 2002 but holds a cultural significance for serving as the city’s only African-American high school. Completed in 1926, the school was one of only ten African American high schools in Virginia. Planning for the school’s restoration began with City Council’s appointing a Jefferson School Task Force. That Task Force’s vision was then carried out through the formation of the Jefferson School Partners in 2008 following the commitment by City Council of $5.9 million in funding. Additional donors have added support to the project and the effort was recently bolstered with a commercial construction loan provided by Union First Market Bank to provide the financing for the $18 million dollar project. Tenants have already been secured for the first phases of the project and include JABA, Common Ground Healing Arts, Literacy Volunteers of Charlottesville/Albemarle, Piedmont Family YMCA, a Martha Jefferson Hospital out-reach clinic and PVCC. In addition, the city’s Carver Recreation Center will be renovated to provide a curriculum of enrichment classes, recreational activities and a meeting place for community events and a new African American Heritage Center will soon open its doors.

“On behalf of City Council and the citizens of Charlottesville I would like to thank those who have moved this project forward and who made this important day possible. This building and these grounds hold so much historic relevance. To the students and the teachers of the Jefferson School who join us today, I thank you for your contribution and for your insistence that we keep this great landmark an active center for learning and remembrance for generations who follow,” said Dave Norris, Mayor of Charlottesville.

Martin Burks, Chairman of the Jefferson School Foundation, a non-profit group formed in part to ensure long-term sustainability of the project, including the project’s center piece -- the Jefferson School African-American Heritage Center will introduce several speakers at the bell-ringing event tomorrow. “What is truly amazing is the magnitude and scope of commitment, hard work and ingenuity that has brought this project forward since its inception -- from the vision set forth in City’s task force to today’s groundbreaking. The teachers, the Jefferson Alumni and the community as a whole can be extremely proud of this historic moment,” said Mr. Burks.

The Jefferson School African-American Heritage Center will expand the educational opportunities in the arts for our community. Its permanent and temporary exhibitions will celebrate the accomplishments, past and present, of African Americans. It will house an Arts and Language Academy that offers instruction in the performing (dance, music and theater) and visual arts as well as various languages spoken throughout the African diaspora. Through lectures, performances, film series and its various other programs it will involve a multi-disciplined approach and encourage life-long learning.

The legacy of Jefferson School is a remarkable one. The school has served for over 125 years as the cornerstone for African American citizens of Charlottesville and Albemarle County, providing a venue and focal point for their emergence as a dynamic and vital part of the community's social history during the 20th century. Jefferson School represents a spirit of tenacity and dedication to the highest national ideals of equality and fairness. Jefferson School is not only a familiar landmark in the Starr Hill neighborhood of downtown Charlottesville, but it is also officially recognized by the United States Department of Interior, National Park Service as having historic significance and is therefore listed in the National Register of Historic Places.