Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023–9:31 p.m.
-David Crowder, WRGA News
A cultural arts center, a convention center, activities for seniors and kids, a law enforcement training center, and a new home for the library were just some of the ideas for the former Cave Spring Elementary School that were proposed during a town hall meeting Tuesday.
The school closed at the end of the 2021-2022 school year, and late last year the city purchased the building and grounds for $40,000.
According to Drew Jones with the Cave Spring Downtown Development Authority, having a 62,000-square-foot commercial building is something that most small towns can only dream of, adding that there are four things a town needs to thrive – education, jobs, housing, and community.
“Education was kind of ripped out from under us here,” he said. “Since this building can no longer help with that, it can help with the other aspects of jobs and community.”
Jones said it will be important to offset the cost for the upkeep of the building and proposed lodging, possibly a hostel or Airbnb, along with a fitness center and business incubator.
“If 20,000 square feet of this school is leased out for only $6 per square foot a year, which is very low, we could start out with $120,000 a year by leasing space,” he said. “That would be a great way to incubate a business and allow it to increase that over a few years.”
In addition, the Cave Spring Library could be moved to another portion of the building, along with the DDA office, and a museum. Still, another part of the building could be used for office space, conference rooms, and a computer lab while keeping the auditorium as a place for community events.
Meanwhile, Peggy Allgood with Alton Holman Heritage Arts told the council that the organization would be interested in a suite of five classrooms, some storage rooms, and an office in the former school building.
“Alton Holman Heritage Arts would bring art tourism,” she said. “People want to see people doing Appalachian heritage art. We always go to the local businesses for things we need, and it would be for family activities.”
Sue Edwards would like to see an area for senior activities like Silver Sneakers program, adding that seniors who live in Cave Spring have to drive all the way to the senior center in Rome to participate in activities.
There was also a proposal to use some of the building for meeting space for the Georgia School for the Deaf Alumni Association since GSD played such a vital role in the history of Cave Spring.
Jarrod Kinsey, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Cave Spring told the council that there have been partnership activities for the church that didn’t work out due to a lack of space. One of those was a crisis center for the homeless with the United Way, and another was with Elevation House. Kinsey said there was also a need for addiction recovery services, and a centralized food bank.
Sandra Lindsey said if the council decided to sell the property, it should be marketed to investors and developers for a boutique-style conference and convention center, adding the property already has the right amenities.
“Classrooms could be easily converted into hotel rooms or suites,” she said. “There are several larger rooms that would serve as breakout rooms, and there is an auditorium for large meetings. As a bonus, there is a gym that could serve as an indoor walking track as well as a workout facility along with a dining room that just needs to be updated. Rome boasts many world-class sporting events, and many times, rooms have to be booked in Calhoun or Cartersville, so why not Cave Spring?”
The town hall was facilitated by former Rome-Floyd Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Al Hodge, who said there is a renewed sense of urgency about what to do with the building.
“To their credit, the city council wanted to hear from you – the citizens – for your ideas and suggestions,” he said. “From here, they will sift through the ideas and there will perhaps be some more public meetings. Again, part of the point is that the facility is revenue-producing. The council is very conscious and aware of being good stewards of the funds of Cave Spring, from what I can tell by working with them on this and previously.”
Hodge also mentioned that there could be state and federal grant funding available for some of the ideas for the school along with possible corporate and endowment opportunities.