Council votes to extend ownership of Claflin School at least 6 months

Council's 7-0 vote allows city to retain school for at least six months

mowen@ledger-enquirer.comMay 27, 2014 

Mike Haskey mhaskey@ledger-enquirer.com The Claflin Center in Columbus. 04/09/14

MIKE HASKEY — mhaskey@ledger-enquirer.com Buy Photo

The city will retain ownership of the old Claflin School on Fifth Avenue for at least six more months, instead of allowing ownership to return to the federal government, Columbus Councilors decided Tuesday night.

After coming close to allowing the property to revert to the federal government last month, council voted Tuesday night to extend the city's ownership to give supporters a chance to restore the buildings.

Claflin sits on the site of the first school for black children in Columbus, built by the Freedmen's Bureau in 1868. That wooden building burned and was replaced by two structures on the site, one built in 1921 and the other main building built in 1948, according to historian Edward Howard.

In around 1880, the property was deeded to the Columbus City Schools and later to the Muscogee County School District. It was eventually closed, and since it was no longer being used for educational purposes -- which its deed requires -- ownership reverted to the city.

In the interim years, the structure decayed significantly, to the point that it would require millions to restore the building. Last year, the city put out a request to developers interested in renovating the property, but it had to be for an educational purpose. City officials believe there was little interest in the property because of that deed restriction.

A group of about 25 concerned residents toured the facility last week with an eye toward stimulating interest in the project. Representatives of that group had asked the city to give them at least six more months to locate support for the project.

If no developers can be found, the land would likely revert to the federal government, which has the authority to remove the educational restrictions, making the property more attractive.

The proposal to extend ownership passed 7-0 with Councilors Red McDaniel, Glenn Davis and Gary Allen not present.

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