Officials propose new high school academy for Knox County

Officials propose new high school academy for Knox County

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The old L&N building is at the corner of Henley Street and Western Avenue. The old L&N building is at the corner of Henley Street and Western Avenue.

By ERICA ESTEP
6 News Anchor/Education Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Officials propose transforming the old L&N building near downtown Knoxville into a new high school with $3 million in federal funds.

The building at the corner of Henley Street and Western Avenue, along with the old Butcher Shop restaurant building next door, would become a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) academy that would open next fall.

The federal funding comes from Race to the Top money.

The high school is one of two STEM schools identified in Tennessee's Race to the Top proposal. The proposal is to expand the school over time to serve a regional student population.

Approval process

The Knox County School Board must approve the creation of the school and the location.

Knoxville City Council must approve the re-amortization of the lease between the owners, Station 82 Partners, and the city, as well as the grant to school system.

City council will also have to approve a change to the city's current C2 downtown commercial zone, which doesn't permit the placement of a school.

Knox County Commission and board of education would have to approve accepting any direct financial support from the city for this initiative.

Schools Superintendent Dr. Jim McIntyre will recommend the site at a board of education work shop on Monday.

The school board is set to vote on the concept Wednesday. If it's approved, the next set of votes would deal with the location.

Financing proposal

The city would grant the school system approximately $200,000 a year to help offset costs. The net yearly facility cost for the school would be about $225,000 a year for the Knox County School System.

The new school building would be on a 20-year lease with the owners. Alex Harkness and Station 82 Partners purchased the L&N building in 1985 using a federal loan administered by the city.

Harkness says the property long term for a high school is a good financial move. "It is for us and for the city and for the school system, too. I think it's a perfect time all the way around with the federal funds that are available, and it's good from our standpoint to make sure the building will be maintained and we're very excited about it," he said.

Under a renegotiated loan repayment agreement, the L&N's owners will pay the city $200,000 a year for 20 years.

At the end of the 20-year lease period, the property's ownership would be transferred to the school system. The title would revert back to the city if the property is no longer used as a school.

A press release from the school system says its primary facility expense will be leasing the L&N from its owners for $425,000 a year over the next 20 years.

However, that amount would be offset by an approximate $200,000 yearly grant the city would provide to school system. That's actually the city's annual revenue from the loan repayment from Station 82 Partners.

L&N building

The building was built in 1905 and last used as a passenger station in 1960.

It was abandoned for a time, then remodeled for the 1982 World's Fair when it had a restaurant and other facilities.

The L&N also played host to Ye Olde Steakhouse when it was damaged in a fire in November 2002. The steakhouse re-opened in its Chapman Highway location in September 2004.

The L&N building currently houses some office space, it's rented out for special events like weddings.

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