Curley School Project, Ajo, AZ
Award Type: National Trust/HUD Award
The pride and joy of a small mining town when it opened in 1919, the Curley School was forced to close its doors when hard times hit in the 1980s. Reclaiming the building was a risky proposition, but an array of public and private partners came together to reopen the School as the centerpiece of a community-wide revitalization effort.
When the CurleySchool opened in 1919, it was the pride of small copper mining town Ajo, AZ. An architectural masterpiece of Spanish Colonial design, it was the town's largest building and sat on a seven-acre campus. When the mines shut down, Ajo lost its economic base and much of its population. The CurleySchool closed its doors and soon fell into disrepair. Reclaiming such a large, dilapidated building was a risky proposition in an isolated, unincorporated town. Fortunately, public and private partners came together to take on the challenge, used federal tax credits, a variety of other funding sources and the labor of local citizens, to restore Curley School as the centerpiece of a community-wide revitalization effort.
In its largest single endeavor to date, the International Sonoran Desert Alliance spearheaded the $8.9 million rehabilitation of the historic school. The renovation converted the abandoned property into 30 affordable live/work rentals for artists and creative home businesses. The mixed-use development in the heart of town also includes classrooms, offices, a computer lab and an indoor-outdoor auditorium that has already become a popular venue for community events. Residents also have access to services ranging from business-development training and employment counseling to health and youth programs and homeownership assistance.
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