A new grocery store may be coming to Midtown following last month’s approval by the Mobile County school board to sell the former Augusta Evans School property to a commercial real estate company. The school is just north of the intersection of Old Shell Road and Florida Street.
On Jan. 26 the board approved a sales contract with MAB Acquisitions, LLC for $1,550,000. According to Mobile County Public School System Superintendent Martha Peek, the property was appraised at $1.5 million.
During the board’s Feb. 23 regular meeting, Peek told Lagniappe that she has heard a grocery store chain or a similar type business might occupy the property but went on to confirm that she has not received official word or anything definitive from the buyer.
James Argo, a principal developer for MAB Acquisitions, said commercial real estate would be at the top of the list for what he and the company believes would be beneficial to the area but noted it could take months before a decision is made.
“We are evaluating what the best use of the property would be,” he said. “We haven’t made any determination at this early stage.”
According to Argo, the next several months will include an extensive inspection period. He noted that high expenditures in demolition and structure haul off in addition to a lengthy zoning process, depending on the project conceived, also play a factor in the decision and timing of what the final project will be.
“There’s a lot of early things that have to be accomplished before we are ready to decide exactly what we want to do,” Argo said. “We are moving ahead, but we’re just a couple weeks into it.”
While the area already has several thriving businesses, Argo believes the addition of another commercial property would make sense and there is certainly room for more growth.
“I’d like to think it could be bigger and better, so (commercial) will be the first project we put under the microscope to see if that makes sense,” he said. “In Midtown, (there) is an opportunity to do something nice and special that enhances what Midtown and MiMo is all about.”
The school board decided to sell the property after determining it’s not utilized to its full potential, Peek said. Last summer, Augusta Evans relocated its staff and special needs students to a new facility on Biloxi Avenue while the current facility was made available for students in the system’s Star Academy and Alternative School programs.
“We do have pathways there, but it’s a very small program in a very large building, so when we have a facility that sits vacant like that, we’re not being good stewards of the neighborhood,” Peek said. “The property immediately begins to go downhill and is not up to date as it needs to be. So, in order to be good neighbors, it’s to our advantage to go ahead and sell and let it be used for something that’s going to benefit the neighborhood rather than sitting as an almost vacant property.”
According to the sales contract made with the school board, Argo said it would take about a year before it could officially purchase the property. Until then, Peek said MCPSS will continue to use the facility in some capacity.
“The buyer has said that for the length of time it takes to decide what the property is going to be used for and to actually do that, that the program could stay there,” she said. “So, we know it will be located there through the remainder of this school year and then we will look for another permanent home for it.”