Old Connelly on auction block

Friday, March 6, 2009
Tribune photo by Clint Confehr Attempts to transform old Connelly School into a community center have been abandoned. It's sale is set for March 20 at 12:30 p.m.

Central Park, the big brick building on 5th Avenue facing the crest of Haynes Street that's probably better known as old Connelly School, is to be sold at auction on the afternoon of March 20, two weeks from today.

The building is owned by Central Park of Marshall County, a non-profit organization chartered by the state on May 14, 2004. On May 28 that year, the non-profit group acquired the property for $1 through a quitclaim deed transferring ownership of the property from the Lewisburg Housing Authority.

The housing authority acquired the property from Marshall County Schools.

Lovel Jobe, 56, of Chapel Hill, owner of Domino's Pizza restaurants in Chapel Hill and on Ellington Parkway, is the president of the non-profit group selling the old school and this week, he explained what's led to his board's decision to sell the old school.

Jobe and his associates had a vision to transform the building into a community center and, while some activities such as boxing lessons and skateboarding had begun, the funding to renovate, maintain and operate the building wasn't raised.

"The responsibility falls to me," Jobe said. "My communication skills were not as sharp as I wanted them to be."

He faults himself, explaining, "It was an awkward thing for me to go to people asking for help...

"I envisioned it to be a community center where there was a cafeteria to feed the kids," he said.

Friends and associates shared the vision, wanting to apply their talents such as Noval Mayes of Lewisburg who wanted to run an after school tutoring program, Jobe said. Richard Reyes, another Lewisburg man who works at Saturn, "had a full boxing ring and taught" the sport.

"I wasn't doing a very good job of making sure the facility had what it needed like utilities and maintenance," Jobe said, repeating his acceptance of responsibility for the chain of events leading to the auction to be conducted by Bob Parks Auction company of Murfreesboro at 12:30 p.m. on March 20.

The deed transferring the property to the non-profit organization includes three conditions:

> Central Park will allow Lewisburg Housing Authority to use the property for storage, as long as Central Park is not utilizing the space.

> The executive director of Lewisburg Housing Authority will be a member of the Central Park of Marshall County Board of Directors.

> Should Central Park sell the property within three years of the date of the deed, then Central Park will pay to Lewisburg Housing Authority 25 percent of the proceeds from the sale.

More than three years have passed since the property was transferred from the housing authority to the non-profit group.

However, Jobe said proceeds of the sale of the property will be spent to reimburse people who have made contributions to the tax free group.

Central Park of Marshall County "won't shut down until all the paperwork is done and the money is distributed," Jobe said. "Then the board will decide how everything will come to an end, and that will be it."

He anticipated that to take at least two months because of the date of the sale and the board's meeting schedule.

"The people who helped were tremendous," Jobe said. "Churches that participated helped a lot."

Sale of the property to a private owner would return the land to city and county property tax rolls. Its value as a revenue stream to the city and county is, as of yet, undetermined.

Auctioneer Bob Bugg of Bob Parks Auction Co. said the three-floor building has 48,000 square feet. He agreed that $100 per square foot is a frequently cited cost for residential construction, but it's clear the old school isn't a house or apartment building.

The building is on five acres and Bugg said some of the land on Sixth Avenue has been subdivided into four lots of about one quarter acre each so they could be sold on March 20.

Jobe said it's unclear until the day of the auction what portion of the property will sell, so it might all be sold to one person or group, or the parts might be sold separately.

Bugg said the land is zoned for residential purposes.

The building hasn't been used for at lest 30 days, he said. Gas, electric, water and sewer services were cut off about a month ago.

"If the windows were repaired, it would have a 90 percent improved look," Jobe said. "There's no telling how many gallons of paint have been used on it."

The home economics classroom has appliances for cooking, he said. Bugg said the gymnasium floor is still intact. Both noted that inside the building there's a large skateboard "half-pipe" used for the sport.

Jobe said the roof doesn't leak. However, there's a drain pipe from the roof so water could flow to that place on the roof and go down through the building and away. That drain pipe has a leak that is apparent during major rain storms. Minor spring showers don't result in leaks, he said.

Selling the old school and its property "is not what I would have chosen, but sometimes you're not given one," Jobe said. "Sometimes, financial decisions are not the best ones. Perhaps someone will be able to take it and do what I wanted and do a much better job."

Jobe, who is not in bankruptcy, nor does that play a role in the sale, leads a board of directors for the non-profit organization that includes Ronald Robinson, executive director of the housing authority, Nancy Josephson, secretary and treasurer of Central Park, and the Rev. Herbert Johnson, pastor of the Greater First Baptist Church of 5th Avenue.