Options being weighed for existing building

A 66-year-old Greenwood school building could be torn down, remodeled or used by a different school.

Those are among the options for the current Greenwood Middle School building, on Madison Avenue just south of downtown. If officials decide to build a new school, the existing school will be empty by 2018.

The school district has started talking to Greenwood city officials to see if they are interested in purchasing the property. This week, the Greenwood City Council approved allowing tax-increment financing district funds to be spent on the middle school property, which is not inside a special taxing district.

What happens next will be up to the school district, which will need to move forward with constructing a new building, and the redevelopment commission, which will need to decide whether to buy the property just north of Madison and Smith Valley Road, city officials said.

On the list of possibilities: demolishing the school and using the property for retail development, using at least some of the property for road projects and leasing the building to another business or school.

Greenwood Christian Academy has expressed interest in moving into the building, according to Principal Bruce Peters.

He said the private school is reaching its maximum class sizes of 26 students per class and expanding is part of its five-year plan, but it can’t do that in the current building. The school could use the building for middle and high school students.

Private school officials have been looking for areas where they could expand their athletics fields, since they currently rent fields and a gymnasium, and where a middle and high school building could be built later. The Greenwood Middle School property doesn’t meet all needs, since it doesn’t have all the athletics fields they want, but Peters said it is an option they want to discuss.

“We said if you would lease it, we would be interested in talking about that,” Peters said.

No details have been discussed, such as cost or timeline, and he isn’t even sure if the city would be willing to lease the property. He said that’s a must for the private school because it can’t afford to buy the building.

City officials are split on what should be done with the building. The city already leases office space to three companies in the city center at Madison Avenue and Main Street and plans to lease the former city hall at 2 N. Madison Ave. to a child rehabilitation center.

The current middle school building is not usable as it is, council member Thom Hord said. To meet the needs of a new company, the renovation costs would be too much, and the city most likely would still demolish the building, he said.

The land could be used for another educational space in the future, Hord said.

Leasing out the current middle school building would not be a smart choice for Greenwood, city council member Mike Campbell said.

“I don’t like the idea of us becoming landlords. I don’t think that’s the role of the government,” he said. “If that was the reason to buy it, I would be opposed to it.”

Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers said he does not think that the renovation costs would be worth it to save the building. An architect working with Greenwood school officials projected renovations to be about $20 million in order to get the middle school to current standards.

Myers said he would not consider leasing the building to another business or company but would rather demolish it and prepare the site for stores, offices or restaurants.

“I think the best and only option would be to demolish the building and develop the land,” Myers said. “I don’t see where it would be at all feasible to renovate that building.”

The city could use that land to solve the traffic issues on Smith Valley Road, where Meridian Street and Madison Avenue have separate traffic lights just 250 feet away from each other. The city is looking at options including improving traffic on Meridian Street and a roundabout at the Smith Valley Road and Madison Avenue intersection, he said. Work could be done in 2018, as long as the city gets funding.

Council member Bruce Armstrong said he thinks a private company or developer, rather than the city, should purchase the property.

“My opinion right now of the city is we’re spending too much money doing things like that, and the pot of money that they’ve been using for that in my mind has been exhausted,” Armstrong said.