The former Moberly Junior High School now is owned by the city as part of a purchase agreement with Horizon Housing Foundation.
Several community members attended Monday’s city council meeting to voice their hopes of either revitalizing the property or tearing it down. The fate of the building is to be determined.
Horizon, a St. Louis-based nonprofit organization aimed at providing low-income housing, acquired the Moberly Junior High School property in hopes of converting the old school into affordable housing for seniors. The organization was working with ND Consulting in an attempt to get low-income housing tax credits through the Missouri Housing Development Corporation, but to no avail, City Manager Brian Crane said.
"After last year, they were unsuccessful with that tax credit project again," he said. "They wanted to get out. They were either going to put a sign in the front yard, saying, ’for sale’ or give it to the city."
The council approved a resolution Monday to acquire the property. Community members voiced their concerns about the building, including Carolee Hazlet, who was in support of historic preservation over demolition.
"We should think about rehabilitating this building, or part of the building," Hazlet said. "It would be the best for Moberly."
Hazlet went into a brief history of the building, which was erected in 1877, including the two instances when the structure caught fire and had to be rebuilt. Tearing the building down could drive interest away from downtown, Hazlet said.
"The roots of a city are what bring people back to retire to their old town," she said. "If you take the roots of a city away, there is nothing left. If we don’t start doing something to bring people downtown, we are going to slowly lose our downtown. But by rehabbing at least part of old school building into something usable, we could keep people in the downtown area."
The idea of preserving and rehabilitating the building, however, was not unanimous. "Tear it down," could be heard from the back of the council chamber after Hazlet’s comments. Paula Hayslip, who yelled out her disdain for the building came up to the podium to elaborate.
"I think it needs to be demolished and it’s beyond expectation to get it to where it can be used for anything," Hayslip said. "I’m not against historical preservation, but I don’t think this junior high has enough to salvage."
Hayslip suggested tearing the property down and expanding Tannehill Park, which sits behind the building.
The decision on whether to rehabilitate or demolish the building, however, will be made by the council at a later date.
Though Horizon has backed out of the property, Tannehill Apartments, the developer, and ND Consulting still are seeking tax credits to convert the property to low-income housing for seniors, which was discussed during the council’s work session as part of a proposed two-year agreement with Tannehill Apartments. ND Consulting will make a proposal at the council’s next meeting, Crane said.
Though the council members were open to the idea of the proposal, some voiced apprehension about entering into a long-term agreement with the developer, considering the years of failed attempts at getting tax credits. Councilman Austin Kyser suggested that the city advertise the property to a number of developers to get the best deal possible, whether that means it ends in historic preservation or demolition.