KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Knoxville city officials are taking steps to shore up an old school building that has fallen into disrepair.
Developer Bahman Kasraei bought South Knoxville High School at auction in 2008 with plans to turn it into an assisted living facility but that plan never happened.
City officials stepped in last July and got a court order to start the process of trying to save the historic but blighted building.
Now that work is underway.
Monte Stanley has a home and greenhouse near the historic South High building. He says over the years the beautiful building has become a dangerous eyesore.
"It's been open in the back so there's been access by homeless and other individuals," said Stanley. "We are just afraid, you know, it may be set on fire because it's been pretty neglected for so long."
The building was built in the 1930s. It was used as a school until the 1970s.
Since the county sold the building to Kasraei it has fallen into disrepair.
Knoxville Public Service Director David Brace says the city has communicated with Kasraei that he is in violation of code and should maintain the historic building. After failing to take action, the city stepped in.
"We utilized the demolition by neglect ordinance, which allows the city to come in and stabilize the building to prevent further decline of the historic character of the building until the owner will take responsibility for it," said Brace.
The demolition by neglect ordinance has been on the city books for 10 years, but has never been funded or implemented until now.
An allocation of $100,000 is now available to clean up and stabilize blighted properties.
"It was funded by Mayor Rogero this year, as she is addressing vacant and blighted properties throughout the city," said Brace.
The city has already put up chainlink and barbed wire fence. Windows have been boarded up and doors with locks have been added.
The city expects to spend a couple more weeks working on the building. Brace says the inside still needs to be stabilized with wooden shoring and tape still needs to be put on the roof.
"We want to keep the walls up. We want to keep water out of it. We want to keep people out of it," said Mayor Madeline Rogero.
Brace says the city's efforts should lengthen the life of the building until the owner takes responsible action.
The project will cost $50,000. The property owner will be billed. If he does not pay, the city will place a lean on the property.
Kasraei says he has no comment on the city's action.
Brace says the city may utilize the demolition by neglect ordinance again this year on other property.
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