An historic building with a troubled past is getting a new lease on life.

After sitting empty for nearly three decades, the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children is now an active construction site as it undergoes a complete remodel.

“It’s being totally renovated, interior and exterior, and hopefully in the near future we’ll have some tenants,” says Spencer Colley, a member of the Akoma board.

The future of the former orphanage will likely include a hair salon, a senior’s drop-in centre, and a café. The renovations will make the building fully accessible.

The Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children opened in 1921, specifically for African-Nova Scotian children. Former residents later detailed years of abuse suffered at the hands of those tasked with caring for them, which prompted class-action lawsuits, an official apology from the province, and a restorative inquiry.

Parts of the Cherry Brook, N.S., building have been torn down over the years, but it will still look like itself after the latest revamp.

Former residents who are still healing say they have mixed feelings about the building’s renovation.

“There has been a number of people that want to see the building torn to the ground because of the hurt,” says Tony Smith.

Smith says he’s now proud to say he was once a resident of the home, but that wasn’t always the case. Today, Smith is a co-chair of a support group for survivors, and co-chair of the restorative inquiry. Both groups are staying neutral.

“For me, personally, whatever is being done should honour the history and the legacy of why the home came to light in the first place,” says Smith.

The Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children is now named Akoma Holdings, and the board has big plans for the rest of the property. Colley says he would eventually like to see it turned into affordable housing.

“We can’t always look behind us,” says Colley. “We have to try to look forward to try to make a difference.”

With files from CTV Atlantic's Sarah Ritchie