Amherst aims to redevelop training center campus
Amherst County regional stakeholders are drafting a plan to improve the campus of the former Central Virginia Training Center to attract potential developers.
The state-owned facility, which housed Virginians with disabilities for more than a century, shut down this year in accordance with a 2012 agreement between the state and the U.S. Department of Justice.
It was the county’s largest employer, providing the region more than 1,630 jobs, $87.1 million in economic activity and generating $3 million in local and state taxes annually, according to a 2013 study. The center also has a dark history; opened in 1910 as a home for epileptics, it expanded in the 1920s to include so-called “feeble-minded” people, some of whom were involuntarily sterilized.
The Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance has been tasked by Amherst County to form a master plan to prepare the now-unoccupied campus for developers. The plan could be complete by the end of the first quarter of 2021, moving to supervisors for approval.
Amherst County Administrator Dean Rodgers says the new project would need to produce a level of economic activity similar to that of CVTC.
“We are trying to recuperate a quarter of our economy that was lost by the closure of the facility,” Rodgers says. “The entire region is engaged in turning that 350 acres into something productive that provides jobs.”
Development of the site — which sits on a bluff overlooking the James River across from downtown Lynchburg — could expand the region’s urban hub.
Investors could make use of 90 buildings on campus, though most are derelict, Rodgers says. Utilities and access to the U.S. 460 and U.S. 29 corridors make the site ideal for mixed residential and business development, he adds.
Hurdles remain in purchasing the site, which is owned by the Virginia Department of General Services. Roughly $22 million in bonds are owed on the property, which could dramatically increase the asking price. The bonds could also be satisfied by state funds, but a measure to allocate $6.5 million annually toward CVTC debt service for two years failed during this year’s General Assembly session. Tax breaks and other incentives could reduce the burden, however, says Del. Wendell Walker, R-Lynchburg.Developers could take advantage of historic tax credits, but Dave McCormack, president of Petersburg-based Waukeshaw Development Inc., says the project may pose difficulties. “It’s not just the size of the property,” he says, “but the quantity of buildings is really imposing … from a redevelopment perspective.”