KNOXVILLE (WATE) – The old South High School in Knoxville is getting new life.

“It’s a historic, iconic building that’s gone dark for a number of years,” Rick Dover, general manager of Dover Development, said.

The landmark that once housed classrooms will soon be transformed into a new senior living center. Dover Development is investing $9.5 million into the project. Dover said renovations will not be easy and the list of repairs is long, from rotted floors to a collapsing roof.

Dover said upgrading the existing building will take longer than starting from scratch, but that preserving it is worth the investment.Previous story: Proposal to renovate Knoxville’s South High School unveiled

“I think these buildings really tell the story of who we are as a community and without them, much of our story is lost,” Dover said. “With them repurposed in neighborhoods like this, they will be a source of capital investment, jobs, revitalization and energy.”

Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero has been advocating for saving the old high school for years and said she looks forward to seeing the finished product.

“We’ve been working a number of years, as a city, along with the city council, the administration, our employees, Knox Heritage, a lot of groups, to preserve this building and others throughout our city,” Rogero said. “Every time we are successful in saving an historic structure like this, it’s certainly an opportunity for people to celebrate, which is what we are doing today.”

Knoxville taxpayers agree.

“I think it’s very important because it’s an important part of our history, and I know that a lot of people don’t really think about that stuff anymore but just coming here and looking around today, was a very cool experience,” Cassie Smith said.

Dover said a new senior center is something the community needs, and they will be putting the historic structure to good use.

“In the end, you have a unique project and a product that’s authentic to the community,” he said. “It’s an icon that people love perhaps because they went to school here or it was in their neighborhood growing up. We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to save it.”

Dover said he hopes to complete the project by 2019 and the new center will bring 35 permanent jobs to the area.