Columbus' task: Sell old school in weak market

By The Associated Press

COLUMBUS — The Columbus Municipal School District is ready to move forward with plans to divest itself of an empty middle school.

Lee Middle School was vacated in January when students moved to the new Columbus Middle School.

But real estate experts tell The Dispatch (http://bit.ly/qSu9M8) that the 96,350-square-foot property could be on the market for quite a while.

One problem: While most agree the property is in a valuable location, near the Highway 82 bypass, some say it’s going to be a challenge to sell because its best use is what it was — a school.

A local real estate broker says he can envision high-end condominiums or a hotel there. But he notes that the building would need extensive remodeling, an expensive proposition in a weak real estate market.

Real estate broker Don West says he can envision high-end condominiums there, or possibly a hotel, but the building would have to be extensively remodeled.

The school, at the intersection of Military Road and 18th Avenue North, was built in 1953 as a high school for white students. The last high school class graduated in 1993. In recent years, the facility housed seventh- and eighth-grade students.

“Ever since they built a new school, I’ve been thinking about what they can do with the old one,” said West, a broker for Coldwell Banker. “It’s almost like a church; it really only has one use.”

West said there is little demand locally for new housing, retail space or office space. A financially flush realty speculator may be willing to purchase the property and hold on to it until market conditions improve, he said. But that type of buyer would most likely be found outside Columbus and would require an aggressive search and marketing campaign, he said.