NEW KENT — Proposals to transform New Kent’s 1930s Historic School into a community center and library have been placed on hold amid concerns over the project’s cost.

The renovation of the school at 11825 New Kent Highway was expected to begin this spring, according to New Kent County’s website.

However, the community center concept is on the back burner and the Board of Supervisors is considering using the space instead to meet the expansion needs of county government in Virginia’s fastest-growing county.

A separate proposal to build a community center at Wahrani in the eastern end of the county is also coming under scrutiny as the board seeks to reduce a proposed real estate tax hike in the budget for fiscal year 2025.

In September, Andrew Smolak of Moseley Architects presented plans for the historic school including community classrooms, a community library and a performing arts component.

County Administrator Rodney Hathaway told the board on March 19 that the proposal came in “way over budget.”

“There was some discussion of instead of doing a community center, the real need is office space, so should we go down that path?” he said. “I have stopped that project while we determine what the focus of that building should be.”

He said the county has already borrowed $7 million for the renovation. The community center design is priced at $13 million.

“Space is an issue and that will be the quickest thing instead of a new $20-$30 million administration building,” board chair Thomas Evelyn said. He suggested the school’s gym could serve a community use.

The community center blueprint intended to tell the story of the Historic School, the former New Kent School.

New Kent School and nearby George W. Watkins School are associated with the case of Green v. County School Board of New Kent in 1968, which is seen as the most significant desegregation case the U.S. Supreme Court decided after Brown v. Board of Education.

Hathaway defended the Wahrani community center proposal at the March 19 meeting.

“Yes, We need a community center in the eastern end but … we need a voting precinct in the eastern area. We don’t have one. We are using a space that’s on the market for lease right now. When that’s leased up we won’t have a space … I have been unable to find a suitable alternative location in that precinct right now,” he said.

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