In the conclusion of a process several years in the making, the city of Fairhope took ownership Friday of the K-1 Center, along with property across the street known as the Fairhopers’ Community Park and the Nix Center on Bayou Drive. The city purchased the properties from the Baldwin County Board of Education for $2.5 million, part of an agreement that will allow the city to redevelop the former school property.
A provision of the sale also requires the city to pay $300,000 per year for the next five years to the five public schools in Fairhope with recommendations from the Fairhope Educational Advisory Committee in coordination with the Fairhope school principals and the superintendent of the Baldwin County schools.
At a check presentation ceremony in front of the building, City Council President Jack Burrell called it “a very large and historic purchase,” assuring that citizens will have input into proposals for the property’s best use.
Superintendent Eddie Tyler said the sale was “huge” for the Board of Education, which did not budget funds to maintain the building after it was closed in 2011.
“I’m just glad to know it’s going into the hands of people it means so much to, past and present … it’s such a special place — you have to know the history and know how it was functioning and living and breathing with teachers and students at that time.”
Baldwin County School Board President Cecil Christenberry, a resident of Fairhope, admitted some people questioned the historical significance of the building but argued it remains “emotionally significant.” He added the K-1 Center was briefly on a county demolition contract before he stepped in to prevent it from being torn down.
“On so many levels this is a good day for not only the Board of Education but also the community we love so much,” he said, also announcing the $2.5 million check would be deposited into a construction account to be expended on a new 9th-grade annex at Fairhope High School.
As it has sat vacant since 2011, opposing parties have suggested varying uses for the property that include ideas such as an educational annex, a hotel, a parking deck and a performing arts center. On July 22, Mayor Karin Wilson released the results of an April community forum on the future of the K-1 Center, which included a survey emailed to residents. The results indicated the respondents were nearly evenly split between interests including environmental stewardship, arts and culture, civic uses and education.
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