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Rebirth of Monitor School in the works for Coal Grove

A historic part of Coal Grove's past may become a link to the future, if the Monitor School building is historically renovated as apartments.

The building was built in 1905 and was the village's first high school. It officially closed its doors about 11 years ago, Juanita Markel, village clerk said.

Tom Brammer, Coal Grove resident and president of Brammer Development Inc., purchased the 11,000 square-foot building in March at a public auction. No one else was interested in the property and the Dawson-Bryant School Board accepted his offer of $25,000.

His original intention was to tear it down and build houses on the acre and half lot. After close examination of the building and talking with people in the community, he approached the CAO about historically renovating it as apartments, similar to the way the Marting Hotel was restored in Ironton.

"This is a very well-built building," he said as he pointed out 16-inch thick masonry walls. "It is probably as structurally sound as any building in the county."

The Brammers, Kline and Art Winer, an individual consultant, presented the idea to council last week so the village would know their plans.

"We feel good that this will come together based on preliminary discussions," said Ralph Kline, community development director for the CAO, who will act as partner and facilitate the loan process.

"This is a combination of historical restoration and new construction," Kline said. "It is not just remodeling. It is restoring it as much as possible to the original condition."

Although still only in planning, they would work with the Lawrence County Historical Society, the CAO and the state to accommodate 20 units--11 inside the existing building and nine new structures outside. Several of the new structures would be handicapped accessible, Tom Brammer said.

Todd Brammer, his son and vice president of Brammer Development Inc., agrees that it is a good idea for everyone.

"This is probably the best-case scenario because the community gets to keep the school and we can do our project," Todd Brammer, vice-president of "When you walk in the front door, it will look just like it did walking into the school."

They will apply for a loan from the Housing Development Assistance Program through the Ohio Department of Development by Oct. 7. If they accept the funding, they will be held to state regulations for maintenance and rent for thirty years.

The rent would range from $308 to $575 monthly. Each apartment will have a fire escape. They also hope to develop a community room in the basement of the building that would be open to anyone.

While the whole project is still in the preliminary stages, one issue under discussion is the monument in front of the school that was dedicated in 1943 honoring World War II veterans.

"We may move it or just build around it," he said. "We will do whatever it takes to preserve it."

Mayor Tom McKnight said that he thinks everyone would like to see the memorial preserved. Kline said they hope to obtain pictures of the building in its original condition to help the Historical Society and the architects restore it.

The state will evaluate the apartments each year to make sure the apartments meet state conditions.

The architectural firm is D. W. Weatherby & Associates AIA, of Gahanna, Ohio RLJ Management Company Inc., also of Gahanna, Ohio will manage the complex for at least two years. They manage more than 4,000 units in Ohio, West Virginia and the Carolinas, Winer said.

Preliminary market analysis shows that there is a need for 45 rental units in Coal Grove. They will not know if they get the funding until February and work probably won't begin on the yearlong project until late next summer, Winer said. Michael Caldwell/The Ironton Tribune