VOL. 133 | NO. 152 | Thursday, August 2, 2018
SCS Closes On Bayer Building To House 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 learned that the building owned by Bayer Healthcare LLC of Indianapolis was for sale.
The manufacturing and office space, which had been used by Bayer and Schering-Plough, would undergo a brownfield remediation process before the school system would begin moving in.
“There’s no rush to occupy the building,” SCS superintendent Dorsey Hopson told board members. “We are going to do that in a thoughtful manner,” he said.
The board had many questions, including how fast the system would move to consolidate administrative operations now in 11 locations across the county and what would become of the current central office on Hollywood at Avery that has been in use since 1960.
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 OK 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” that says the brownfield plan by Bayer will fully 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 the central office for the Memphis City Schools system and the Shelby County Schools system. The offices were separated by a set of doors that were boarded up until the merger in 2013 of the county’s two public school systems. 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 entire 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 South 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 rom 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.