Two developers vying for old Valley Elementary building

Published 4:00 pm Monday, January 21, 2019

PELHAM – Two developers hoping to breathe new life into the building that once housed Valley Elementary went before the Pelham City Council at a work session on Monday, Jan. 14, to share their ideas about what the former school could become.

The 80,000-square-foot Valley Elementary building has been vacant since 2016 when it was used temporarily while the finishing touches were being completed on Pelham Ridge Elementary.

Plans presented by each developer included bringing a brewery to the city.

Randy Schrimsher of Huntsville-based Schrimsher Company presented his company’s idea to turn the school into an entertainment hub anchored by a brewery. He said the school is in a great location, but one challenge is that it sits down in a valley. To bring some elevation and height to it, what used to be the main entrance of the school would be almost completely redone, which would take about a year to complete.

The overall goal of the project’s design would be to “bring the inside and outside together.” Schrimsher said that means having a lot of natural light in the facility and incorporating green spaces outside where events would take place. Schrimsher said he believes the design would tie in nicely with the city’s planned trail system.

A brewery would likely be located on the southern end of the campus, where the kitchen is now. The area already has a stage that Schrimsher said would be perfect for musical performances.

“We think this has quite a bit of potential,” he said.

Schrimsher said there’s still a lot of preliminary work that needs the be done and it would probably be another six months before design plans are complete. He said the plan is to keep the entire campus and place anchor tenants on both ends of the building with room for shops and entertainment-type businesses in between.

The project would be modeled after Schrimsher Company’s Campus No. 805 in Huntsville. The building was first Butler High School and then it was Stone Middle School until 2009 when the school closed. The building was vacant for five years before Schrimsher purchased the property from Huntsville City Schools.

Schrimsher said the original plan was for the school to be turned into a warehouse-type facility, but over time the project organically morphed into what it is today – anchored by two breweries, Yellowhammer Brewing and Straight to Ale. Campus 805 is also home to Civil Axe Throwing, an arcade, Spirited Art painting studio, virtual golf, an events center, a speakeasy, restaurants and much more.

Randy Brooks, with Birmingham-based Real Estate Investments, said he and his team have been looking at the school for more than a year and considering possible uses for the space. Their plan would be to turn the school into a family-oriented center.

Brooks said he has already been in touch with some businesses, including a couple of breweries, about locating at the site. His design plan includes office space, restaurants, retailers and an amphitheater where movie screenings and other events could take place. The restaurant would include an outdoor courtyard component. He added that the playground at the school would remain intact.

“An event planner would be brought in on this to make sure we’re having special events on a regular basis,” Brooks said.

He said he likes that the property sits off the road because it provides a safer environment for families. Brooks said he wants to create a space that promotes the local economy and where the community can gather.

Brooks said not much would be done to change the interior of the building and the school’s existing infrastructure would be utilized to maintain the character of the building. He noted that challenges include the length and height of the building. He said multiple things could be done to give the building height, such as adding a clock tower or signage.

“We want to honor the existing structure and not make too many changes to it,” he said. “It’s important not to change too much of the building, instead we can do subtle design changes to elevate the building.”

Brooks said it’s equally important to maintain a family atmosphere in the project. The project would be funded through personal funds instead of bank financing. Brooks said it would take about six months to complete design plans.

The City Council is left to decide which concept they will go with.