VOL. 133 | NO. 151 | Wednesday, August 1, 2018
Shelby County Schools Closes on Bayer Building As New Central Office
By Bill Dries
Shelby County Schools board members voted Tuesday, July 31, to buy the Bayer Building, 3030 Jackson Ave., as the new central office of the school system for $6.6 million.
The board’s 7-0 vote, with board member Mike Kernell abstaining, closes the deal the school system began considering seven months ago when school system leaders noticed a for sale sign outside the building owned by Bayer Healthcare LLC of Indianapolis.
The manufacturing and office space, used by Bayer and Schering-Plough before it. would undergo a brownfield remediation process to be undertaken by Bayer before the school system would begin moving in.
“There’s no rush to occupy the building,” SCS superintendent Dorsey Hopson told board members, who had a lot of questions about how fast the system would move to consolidate administrative operations now in 11 separate locations across the county and what would become of the school system’s current central office on Hollywood at Avery that has been in use since 1960.
“We are going to do that in a thoughtful manner,” he said.
Any sale of the school system’s existing central office and any other office and warehouse locations would have to be approved by the school board.
“I’m okay with this with the understanding that every employee, every department will have someone meet with them to explain what the environmental concerns are … and push to make sure there is development in the surrounding community,” said board member Chris Caldwell.
The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation has issued a “comfort letter” saying the brownfields plan by Bayer will full remediate any contaminants on the site.
Hopson said the eventual consolidation of the school system’s functions under one roof will be more efficient and will allow the school system to “emerge from legacy this and legacy that.”
The Hollywood and Avery location was originally the central office for the Memphis City Schools system and the Shelby County Schools system which had offices separated by a set of doors that were boarded up until the merger of the county’s two public school systems in 2013. A year later the demerger of public education into six suburban school systems and a Shelby County Schools system that takes in the city of Memphis and all unincorporated areas of the county left the whole building to the new SCS system.
“I am concerned about if the district decides to move all operations to the Bayer Building, we now have an empty building at 160 S. Hollywood,” said board chairwoman Shante Avant. “I guess the concern is we’re providing some economic drivers in one community. What happens to this building that would sit empty in the midst of Midtown?”
City housing and community development division director Paul Young described the current school system offices by the Fairgrounds as “a very marketable site.”
Young said the city is about two weeks away from taking its application for a Fairgrounds Tourism Development Zone to state officials for approval. The school system offices are within the TDZ. The zone captures sales tax revenue in a three square mile area to finance public improvements at the Fairgrounds whose centerpiece would be a youth sports complex.
The city Fairgrounds plan also includes improvements to Tobey Park, which is next to the school system offices.
“If something good happens on this site, it benefits the Fairgrounds and the city overall,” Young said. “I think there’s a significant opportunity for us as opposed to a challenge.”
Caldwell said he hoped there could be a public use for the site if the school system didn’t have a use for the land at Hollywood and Avery.
Hopson said the first move to the Bayer building would probably be Central Nutrition Services of the school system whose circa-1940s structure and its deterioration forced the school system to make temporary provisions at the recently closed Northside High School.