May 30--The future of a former Xenia elementary school building is uncertain while the city tries to sell or find tenants for the building on West 2nd Street.
Council discussion on uses for the property have been ongoing since Xenia Community Schools gave the property to city more than a year ago. At one point the council considered demolishing the 39,201-square-foot building. Those plans were put on hold earlier this month, and now the city is in early talks with potential tenants for the site.
"We're at that juncture where we really need to take a more aggressive, a more serious approach, in trying to court some type of entity or organization for reuse," said Brent Merriman, the Xenia city manager. "It's is well designed in that it can easily be segmented off. We had two or three different tenants who wanted to buy portions of the building, so its got a lot of flexibility to it."
Merriman was unable to disclose additional details on potential tenants, but he noted the zoning allows for flexibility in the use of the old Simon Kenton school making it a good opportunity for an owner or renter.
"The city is not looking to profit per se off this opportunity since the building was essentially gifted to us," Merriman said. "So we, as a general approach to things, are willing to provide an opportunity for an entity or entities at a very reasonable rate so those entities could turn around and recapitalize dollars into the building."
In addition to a low price tag, Merriman noted a future tenant could benefit from the city's long-term plans to install a road that would connect 2nd Street with Bellbrook Avenue.
The property, which is valued at $2.3 million according to the county auditor's office, is located in an area that has been identified as a location for a potential city recreation center or park. While other sites are also being considered for the city's future recreation needs, the site is ideal because of its close proximity to another recreation building in the area, said Brian Forschner, the Xenia city planner.
"It fits the idea of whether it's a recreation complex or if there's another public or non-profit office that goes in there, it will be a good location for something like that given how central it is in the community," Forschner said.
Plans to find a tenant for the building were put in motion after the council considered renovating the former school to use it as a police station or justice center where law enforcement and the municipal court could be housed. Eventually, the city decided this option was too costly.
"We would have had to put a lot of extra money into the building to be able to bring it up to that code for use as a police station," Merriman said.
The city also considered moving administration departments into the facility, but discussions on the option stalled because of concerns about moving these offices out of the downtown area.
During discussions about municipal uses for the property, at least two council members have publicly stated they are in favor of demolishing the building. In an interview, John Caupp, a city councilman, said he has concerns about the city continuing to incur expenses associated with the vacant building such as insurance and utilities.
"I've toured the building," he said. "The building is not in very good condition. If we don't find somebody within the next six months, I'm totally OK with demolishing the building ... the longer that building sits there empty and unoccupied, the quicker that building deteriorates."
City council voted to extend a six-month moratorium on destroying the building for an additional six months on May 8.
The building on the property has value, Merriman said. An architect assessed the building which included evaluating the condition of mechanical systems and the roof.
"Are there some needs? Absolutely, but we feel like there's a variety of potential reuses for the building with fairly minimal cost upfront in terms of bringing the building up to code for whatever purpose the end user might have.
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