By Ritchie Starnes, News Editor
Monday, November 25, 2013 —
A dilemma facing the board of education intensified after a special-called meeting.
School leaders met Thursday night to hear a second suitor of the Old Central School make its pitch to buy the site. The Landmark Group also wants to buy the site and develop a mixed-use project.
The Rev. Darryl Medley of the Spirit and Truth United Church of Worship presented details of how the ministry would like to transform the dilapidated school site into a new venue for the church.
Spirit and Truth, 100 Moss Springs Road, Albemarle, is at near capacity and needs more space at a location more accessible for those with limited transportation, Medley said.
“We’ve outgrown our current facility,” Medley said.
“We’re looking for more room where we can do more.”
Among the plans, Medley detailed four phases.
detailed four phases.
The first phase calls for the renovation of the auditorium, which would house Sunday morning worship and Bible study on Wednesday nights. Classrooms would be converted to handle the children’s and preschool ministry.
Medley emphasized that the auditorium is the most appealing to the ministry and what piqued the church’s interest.
Phase II calls for renovations of the cafeteria and classrooms that could accommodate various community functions, such as continuing education class-es.
Phase III, pending the availability of funding, plans to refurbish the site’s middle building to provide affordable housing and daytime programs for the elderly. If funding is not available, the building will be razed.
If the middle building is destroyed, Phase IV calls for it to be replaced with a life center that would serve as a multiple purpose area.
Medley added that the multi-cultural ministry focuses on helping restore the lives of those in need.
“We want to provide a transition house for misplaced families,” Medley said.
The Albemarle church has a sister ministry in Lenoir.
“The goal of that ministry is to get our young people off the street and give them a sense of belonging,” Medley said.
Spirit and Truth has offered $125,000 of the school system’s $150,000 asking price. Plans call for the church to obtain a loan for the purchase. It would later sell the existing church and use those proceeds as well as revenue collected from donations and fund-raisers to pay for the necessary renovations.
Landmark wants to build a mixed-use campus featuring roughly 55 units of affordable housing for residents over the age of 55, with 20 percent of the units serving the disabled regardless of age.
Landmark’s plan is dependent on securing tax credits to fund the project. If Landmark does not secure the tax credits, the city of Albemarle could be on the financial hook. The city would have fiscal liability with Landmark’s project.
Some 85 Landmark projects have been completed in the Southeast, including one in Randleman that is touted as similar to the Old Central School.
City officials have appealed to development groups to tackle the Old Central School as a revitalization project that could ultimately pump money into the local economy while also creating a tax base.
Landmark has agreed to the school system’s asking price. School officials, however, want Landmark to pay a non-refundable deposit before making its pitch. Landmark has asked the city to pay that deposit.
Albemarle Councilman-elect Benton Dry said he’s considering the matter from a business’ perspective.
“We’ve got to be looking at it from a broad perspective,” Dry said.
“Is it something that’s going to be beneficial to the people?
“This is a great opportunity for the school board and whoever gets it.”
Dry was also present at the school board meeting to hear Medley’s presentation.
“I think his folks are dedicated with what they want to do,” Dry said.
Albemarle City Council plans to revisit the subject Dec. 2 when the newly-elected officials take office. The council will decide whether to partner with Landmark on the project.
School leaders will meet the following night to determine the fate of the Old Central School.
“We want to sell this building to someone who is a good neighbor,” Melvin Poole, school board chairman, said.
One prospective suitor of the property has already withdrawn its interest.
Call Ritchie Starnes at (704) 982-2121 ext. 28 or email ritchie@stanlynews press.com.