'Good-faith effort' preserves Alexandria's Carver Nursery School -- for now

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Local,Virginia,Taylor Holland,Alexandria

An Alexandria developer has agreed to put off the demolition of a historic African-American landmark to allow a preservation group time to raise the money needed to save it.

In what he's calling a "good-faith effort," owner William Cromley said he'll give the group a few more weeks to raise the money it needs to buy the Carver Nursery School, which was built to educate blacks during World War II, before he bulldozes it.

Cromley has been trying to sell the vacant building, located at 224 N. Fayette St., since an American Legion post moved out of it in 2007.

Preservationists sued in 2010 to prevent him from tearing it down. And Cromley agreed to put the schoolhouse on the market for two years in hopes that someone would buy and save it. But no one was interested -- not a single offer was made -- and the agreement has now expired.

Legally, Cromley can now demolish the school and build anything he pleases in its place. But he said he's agreed to wait a little longer to see if the newly energized preservationists can raise the money to save it.

"I'm not interested in a plan; we've been talking about a plan for years now," Cromley said. "I need a commitment. Something other than words."

With the deadline now behind them, members of the Greater Alexandria Preservation Alliance have banded together with other residents to form the Carver School-American Legion Post 129 Committee to save the building.

The group has laid out a plan, centered largely around public outreach and the collection of private donations and grants, that members say they're confident will save the schoolhouse.

"We can't do anything about the two years we've lost," said Glenn Eugster, a member of the group. "The community has come together and said, 'This is important to us.' We all want to save this building."

The group has even secured a vote of confidence from the Alexandria City Council, which passed a resolution last month supporting its push to acquire the building. Lawmakers have said repeatedly, however, that the city will not buy the schoolhouse.

"I hope they can do it," Cromley said. "But it's going to be an uphill battle."

tholland@washingtonexaminer.com

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Taylor Holland

Staff writer
The Washington Examiner