Turning the building no one wanted into the place to be | News

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CIRCLEVILLE — Just a few years ago, the town of Circleville struggled to donate the Mill Street Gymnasium and the Industrial Arts Wing of the old Everts School building, but these days both sections of the old school are in operation.

Dating back to its construction in 1916, the building had served as both a middle school and a high school until the school district vacated the building in 2015. At that time, WODA Group purchased the building’s educational wing, the southernmost part of the property and redeveloped it into 49 apartments for the elderly.

The rest of the building, which includes the industrial arts wing and the gym, sat empty for a few years with a leaky roof and no heating. The city then had studies carried out on this part of the building to determine the repair costs and eventually sold the building to the non-profit organization Roundtown As One, which worked on the building’s rehabilitation and programming, using it somewhat as a community center which was one of the proposed purposes of the building originally.

The sale closed in 2019 and around that time, Roundtown As One, whose board chairman Jon Bialy and his wife Issa Bialy, volunteer director of the Everts Center, began to fill the place with programming in the purpose of fulfilling and meeting the needs of the community.

Organizations that have taken advantage of the space include Upwards Basketball, Roundtown Club Volleyball, Pickaway County Pickleball Association, Roundtown Brazilian Jujitsu, In Enh Martial Arts, The Four Seam Elite Baseball Practice, Pickaway Diablos Competitive Shooting Team, Redhawks Baseball and Redhawks Basketball. .

The building has also hosted Trauma-Informed Education training, a vacation Bible school, art and stem classes, and Pickaway Arts and Live Center board meetings.

“The scheduling was always the question mark, what would happen,” said Jon Bialy, a real estate developer with his company Bialy Corp. “A lot of times we develop a property and we know exactly what type of business or what family dynamics we’ll be able to accommodate.

“We had ideas of what the building would be like, but it evolved into what it needed to be,” she said. “My childhood best friend is now a volunteer director of outreach and education here and teaches trauma classes. I can see people who have a passion giving back to the community to see their dreams come true here. It’s because we just took a leap of faith on a building that was empty, that the city didn’t want. We are just a vessel to help make other people’s dreams come true.

Since Roundtown As One took over the building, their renovations include installing new gas lines, creating a more efficient HVAC system, providing a 1200 amp circuit breaker with upgraded power lines, building a new roof on the industrial arts wing, spot repair of the gymnasium roof, repairing damage to the basketball court, renovating the bathrooms as well as providing a fresh coat of paint for the entire building .

Much of this was funded by grants and donations, including funds from the state’s capital budget, a donation from Pickaway County Commissioners, Pickaway County Community Foundation, South Central Power , Walmart and other private donations, including the Bialy Company.

Some of the funding also comes from the Downtown Redevelopment District (DRD) which was created for such projects, the first of its kind in Ohio. DRDs allow local governments to create a fund which then receives new property taxes which are then used for improving public infrastructure and rehabilitating historic buildings.

Jon Bialy said that while bringing the building back online was easy, the hardest part was managing the school’s solid construction technique.

“The hardest part was the construction quality of the building,” he said. “There are legitimately 24-inch-thick block walls. There were no gas pipes, the water pipes weren’t working, and there were no power lines. We had to run almost 1,500 feet of gas lines and to get to these different areas you drilled through a 24 inch block wall with no schematics.

Bialy spoke about the challenges of renovating an old building.

“You don’t renovate a regular building, you renovate one that doesn’t have studs, plaster or drywall,” he said. “You bring 1200 amp electrical service. We had to bring gas lines across the street and attach them to the main tap. Being able to navigate to get things where they need to be and undo the old… was the hardest part.

Issa Bialy added: “Precise [Heating and Cooling] had to go get special equipment, they didn’t have the equipment to do the drilling.

As renovations go on, Issa and Jon Bialy said they need patience.

“It wasn’t going to be an overnight project – it’s still not done,” Issa said. “You have to be patient and not rush and wait for success to get things done and then start talking about what’s next.”

Jon Bialy added: “I have always said that when we acquire properties and renovate them, they have not arrived at the point where they were when we bought them overnight and that will not come back to the vision. complete and full functionality overnight. as well. It’s about patience and overcoming obstacles when they hit you.

Despite these challenges, the Bialys said they enjoyed seeing what community members had done with the space.

“I think the biggest part is that we’ve always given companies a place to do business or live,” Jon Bialy said. “But here you can pursue your passion and your dream. It’s very rewarding to give this opportunity to children and to give adults this place to invest their knowledge in what they do in children.

They each shared the story of someone they saw using the space to find a new room for themselves.

“We had the opportunity to watch a lady who helps four days a week, who didn’t have her driver’s license, didn’t have her GED and since then she got her license and is now three quarters of the path through her GED and she gains real-world experience. We see her having the passion to do it and to do it right. That’s another aspect of what we’re able to offer people here. We can offer work experience to people who want to have a chance.

Jon Bialy, who said he loves sports, said there was one boy in particular who stood out in his mind for what they did at Everts Center.

“There’s a kid I remember in the winter months and I saw him come in and he tried basketball, did it for a couple weeks, then jumped into baseball for a couple weeks, then he tried mixed martial arts,” he said. “He bounced back trying different things and he found mixed martial arts was what he loved. He never clicked with the other sports, but now he’s found something he can pursue.

As for the future of the property, they currently have short and long term goals, most of which are centered around programming. About 85% of the building is renovated and usable, a large part being the old boiler room which has not yet been fitted out.

“Right now we’re trying to build the programming and get people here who want to take advantage of the space and offer programming and get it around before we start tackling other things,” Issa said. Bially. “We would like to be open during normal opening hours where people can just drop by and see what is going on, but at the moment you book in advance and we make sure we have someone to cover it. We only have one paid person who works 10 hours a week. The rest is run by volunteers. It would be nice to be open and not by reservation.

Jon Bialy has ideas for a little further.

“Our next goal is to continue to add amenities to the community through programming, but we believe Pickaway County should be able to host some sort of event or activity every weekend from the year and that’s sort of our goal. a period of 48 to 60 months,” he said. “It’s our goal to host these events that bring thousands to our community, fill our hotels, get people to eat at our restaurants, and get them downtown and visiting businesses.” We believe this, our non-profit Roundtown As One and not just Everts Center, is a mechanism to bring people into our community.

Jon Bialy said for him it was about taking his two passions – real estate and sports – and using them to make a meaningful difference to the community.

“About 10 years ago I went to a camp meeting at OCU and there was a preacher there preaching and talking about moving from success to prominence,” he said. “It was a prayer I had 10 years ago about how I can develop real estate that has meaning for people and impacts the community. Issa and I hadn’t met yet and weren’t married and it’s a beautiful story told by God that led to all of this.We think it’s a way to have an impact on the community and I love the sport.

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