Central to chart land options

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- The old gymnasium at Central Middle School, built in the 1920s. City and school leaders in Central debated Monday night whether it makes to sense to use the old school property as new city center. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- The old gymnasium at Central Middle School, built in the 1920s. City and school leaders in Central debated Monday night whether it makes to sense to use the old school property as new city center.

School board, city council set joint meet

The Central School Board and Central City Council are holding a rare joint meeting Monday night to discuss the future of 29 acres at 11526 Sullivan Road, which for decades served as the home of Central Middle School.

School Superintendent Michael Faulk has offered to make part of the 61-year-old building available as office space for local government offices and agencies, serving as what is described as a city hall.

Faulk, however, has heard from Central residents who want, among other things, to use the vacant property for a new city center, a commercial strip, a sports complex, a museum and a new high school.

Faulk’s ideas for the former Central Middle, estimated to cost $5 million if they become reality, make up one of four ballot propositions that Faulk hopes to place before voters on Nov. 16.

The other three propositions would pay for a new ninth-grade academy on the campus of Central High, increase pay for teachers and other personnel, and upgrade Internet capacity and technology at all campuses.

Faulk said in an interview Friday that Central School Board members want to hold off for now on his proposal in regard to the old Central Middle property.

“The board wanted to wait before we went into a lot of stuff and hear what the city’s ideas are,” Faulk said.

The meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. Monday in the theater at Central High School, 10200 E. Brookside Drive.

Faulk has suggested tearing down six of the nine buildings on the former Central Middle campus and fixing up the exteriors of the three remaining buildings.

In addition to setting aside space for leasing to other local government entities, the three remaining buildings would have enough room to accommodate the Central Office staff and perhaps a small alternative school as well as a professional development center.

The former middle school property, however, is one of a handful of sites that Central is looking at as a location for a possible city center. Such a center would offer a mix of municipal, community, commercial and residential uses. The city is using part of a community development block grant to plan the new city center.

The current Central Middle was built in 1949, with portions of the campus dating back to the 1920s. The middle school relocated in August to its new home, joining Central Intermediate School as part of the $46 million, 88-acre complex.