KNOXVILLE (WATE) - An old elementary school in North Knoxville is getting a makeover and a new purpose.
Along with new curb appeal and interiors, the former Oakwood Elementary School will bring new jobs to the area as an assisted living facility.
Officials held a groundbreaking ceremony at the site on Thursday.
Larry Cox was one of 20 in his family, including his parents, to attend Oakwood. "(The school closing) wasn't that bad. What we hated was at the time I was on city council and we passed a resolution of intent and the school system never did anything about it. Just let it fall down, basically," Cox explained.
But that's changing now that a private company called Family Pride Corp. purchased the building and is moving forward with plans.
"This is a perfect example of older buildings that were once a magnet for activity in a neighborhood, that once they've gone dark, become somewhat of a black hole, draining energy out of the neighborhood. So this is a chance to restore the building, both from the historical perspective and then also to make it a hub of activity," said Family Pride General Manager Rick Dover.
Upgrading the building to an assisted living facility comes with the investment of $4.5 million, and the addition of the building on the Knox County tax rolls.
"We were having vagrants and crack heads and there's not any copper left. They've pulled it all out of the walls," said Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett. "And they lit fires in there to keep warm, and it's just a blight on the community."
But Thursday's groundbreaking means a new life for the building and the community, including about 35 new jobs.
"It's not just about tax dollars and jobs. It's about this neighborhood and the strength of any community is a strong and vital neighborhood and that's what this is about," Mayor Burchett said.
The project is expected to take about a year. In the three weeks construction crews have already been working, they haven't yet missed a day.