Even though a grant to help purchase and renovate the former Fairhope K-1 Center fell through, the City Council is expected to vote to buy the property from the Baldwin County Board of Education during its March 7 meeting.
“It will be on Thursday night’s agenda to go ahead and fund the purchase of the K-1 property and the other two properties that we’re purchasing with it, the Nix Center and the Fairhoper Park across the street from the K-1 Center,” Council President Jack Burrell said. “All of those together are $2.5 million, and in addition to that we would agree to give $300,000 a year for five years to the schools through the EAC [Education Advisory Committee].”
Originally, the purchase agreement called for a closing date of Dec. 31, 2018, but the council wanted it moved into 2019.
“We had asked for an extension for March 31 to close on that property and we intend on doing just that,” Burrell said.
The city already has a yearly commitment to the Baldwin County Board of Education, Burrell said, so the $300,000 in annual installments is something Fairhope is already doing.
“Currently we’ve been giving $350,000, so I don’t feel like that’s new money,” Burrell said. “That’s just continuing a commitment that we’ve had now for six years. I see it as a $2.5 million purchase, but technically it’s a $4 million purchase because we are committed to the $1.5 million over the five-year period.”
Originally, the city applied for a grant from the Economic Development Administration for $6.1 million to not only purchase the properties, but to make improvements to the K-1 building. If the grant was secured, the city’s match of the $6.1 million would have been about $1.22 million.
The terms of this particular grant would require that a nonprofit job creator — in this case Hatch Fairhope, a business incubator initiative of the Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance — be the building’s primary tenant.
“We thought we had a really good chance,” Burrell said. “We had somebody that was advising us on that grant and had been through many of these. It’s not the end of the world. How many times do municipalities apply for federal grants and you don’t get it? You don’t get every grant you apply for.”
When the grant was conceived, Burrell said, it was based on the work Hatch was doing and would continue to do in the expanded space. Development of the building now through grants will depend on the focus of the grants that are available.
“We’re going to search for other grant opportunities and if we’re successful, it just depends on what the requirements are for that,” Burrell said. “If we get a grant and it requires us to house arts or schools or whatever in there, then that will be the priority. Hatch was the priority under the Economic Development grant through which Hatch was a vehicle. If something else becomes that vehicle we’ll have to see what that looks like.”
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