Archive for Thursday, April 21, 2005

School district, city considering fate of Learning Center property

April 21, 2005

City and school leaders are considering what kind of businesses they would like to see constructed at the site of the Community Learning Center in Eudora if the property is sold to commercial interests.

School officials are hoping for big bucks from a potential sale of the property at 10th and Main streets, while city leaders are more interested in recruiting businesses that will bring in future tax dollars for the city.

So far, the two objectives have not clashed, but the agencies will have to come to an agreement before the Community Learning Center property is seriously considered for sale.

Although the school district owns all of the property, records from 1954 indicate that five parcels were given to the district from the city on the condition that if the land was ever used for anything besides education purposes, ownership would revert back to the city. Documents from 1918, almost 40 years earlier, indicated that the Eudora Rural School District purchased all the land, including the parcels in question.

What happened between 1918 and 1954 to give the city jurisdiction over the property was a mystery until Eudora USD 491 Board of Education members put their attorney John Immel on the case.

Immel conducted a title search and confirmed that the city had legal ownership at one time and the 1954 stipulations could be verified.

The issue has come up in recent School Board meetings as members have discussed the fate of the old building that was once used as a school. It is now used for community events and for classes with the Eudora-De Soto Technical Education Center.

Because the Community Learning Center sits atop a portion of the land in question, the School District and the city will have to be cooperative in any efforts to sell the property.

The Board has not officially decided to sell the property, but has given USD 491 Superintendent Marty Kobza the OK to have the property appraised for sale. The current School District headquarters on Elm Street as well as Kerr Field will be included in the appraisal.

At the Board's last meeting, Kobza said the property would be evaluated by a local appraiser, an appraiser from the Kansas City area and an appraiser from the Lawrence area, to get the best idea of what the property would be worth. He said it would be evaluated as a whole and also broken up between the portion that the district had clear title to and the portion with ownership that could be given back to the city.

In a later interview, Kobza said if the Board decided to sell the property, his hope was that the money from the sale would be enough to build new facilities for the programs currently provided at the Community Learning Center.

"If the value is enough to duplicate our technical programs somewhere else I think we would seriously consider moving forward with the sale of the property," Kobza said. "If it's not, then we have to go back to the drawing board."

Kobza said restoring the building was not an option the School Board wanted to pursue because it would likely cost between $4 to $5 million, and would likely only last another 15 years after renovation.

Rather than the District restoring the building for its own use, Kobza said he would prefer to see businesses occupy the downtown space.

"I think our community is in need of some commercial and industrial space," he said. "It's an opportunity to enhance our downtown with some more businesses or commercial property."

Eudora Mayor Tom Pyle agreed it would be beneficial for the city if the property was developed commercially.

"So much of our ground downtown is municipal," he said, "Parks are nice and schools are nice, but they don't bring revenue ... We need stuff going on down there."

Pyle suggested the District might make the city a deal on the property at Kerr Field to free up the city's hold on some of the Community Learning Center property.

"That would give the School District more latitude," Pyle said. "That would give them quite a chunk of land."

Pyle suggested the property at Kerr Field could potentially be used to build a new fire station and City Hall with more adequate parking than the current facilities.

Although no decisions have been made and no deals have been struck between the city and the School District, Kobza and Pyle agree that commercial development would be a healthy progression for the property.

"We need commercial dollars to come into town for tax purposes," Pyle said.

He said between the city and the School District there was some great land for commercial development.

"We own some very desirable property for improvement," he said. "Why waste it? We need to combine our resources on this stuff."

Pyle said it was encouraging that the School District wanted to work with the city on determining the fate of the School District's property, and felt that it was an appropriate time to start working out the details.

"I would like to get things done now while we're all in agreement," he said.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.