Former Knox school building may become assisted living center

Former Knox school building may become assisted living center

Oakwood Elementary School Oakwood Elementary School

6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A crumbling former school building in North Knoxville will likely be put to good use soon.

In January, Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett agreed to accept proposals for Oakwood Elementary School for 30 more days. Only one proposal was made, but the mayor believes it will be a success.

Family Pride Corp. submitted a proposal to turn the vacant building into an assisted living center.

For the past 13 years, Louise Fletcher has lived with Oakwood Elementary School almost in her backyard. The historic building has been closed and falling apart for more than 15 years.

"They board up the bottom windows. They come and throw rocks and break it. There are vagrants over there. The police have been over there trying to get vagrants out of the building," Fletcher said.

But soon that may change. Family Pride Corp. General Manager Rick Dover says if the proposal is approved, the company would restore the building.

"It's got tremendous historical character, and it sits in a neighborhood where if it was done right I think it would be something they could be very proud of and that would be our goal," Dover said.

According to the mayor, Family Pride would invest more than $4 million into the property. The county clean up reimbursement cost is being negotiated, but Mayor Burchett says it will be a small amount considering the cost to demolish it.

"We were going to have to pay over half a million dollars for the cleanup because it's not just tearing an old building down, you have to haul it off and you've got environmental concerns like lead and asbestos," Mayor Burchett explained.

The mayor says restoring the building will raise property values in the area, while decreasing crime.

"You'll see folks want to move into these neighborhoods, and therefore you'll see the property values rise and they will force the drug dealers to go out and the crime out," Burchett said.

The assisted living center would have 58 units and provide 35 full time jobs.

The mayor estimates it would bring in $77,000 in city and county taxes a year.

It's a change Fletcher hopes happens soon. "Assisted living is a great business to have in the area so hopefully it will be a great place for them and a great place for us," she said.

The project has to be approved by county commission in its April meeting. The mayor is confident it will pass and expects it to be in Family Pride's possession by May. 

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