301 N. Mulberry St.

The old Mount Vernon middle school property on North Mulberry Street has been vacant for the last 20-plus years.

MOUNT VERNON — Following a conference call on Thursday, the status of the former middle school on North Mulberry Street is essentially unchanged.

Safety-service Director Joel Daniels spoke with Don Plank, an attorney representing potential buyer Joel Mazza.

“We're still trying to hammer out an agreement how Joel might move forward,” said Daniels.

The city's Property Maintenance Appeals Board voted in March to condemn the building with demolition to be completed in 180 days. Mazza appealed the ruling in Knox County Common Pleas Court, and the case remains on the docket.

Daniels said that Mazza will attend the Aug. 14 appeals board meeting with two intentions:

  • Ask for conditional use for the property with the idea that down the road he will build residential units, either condominiums or apartments
  • Ask that a Community Reinvestment Area (CRA) be established

“If these things can fall into place, he will proceed with buying the property,” said Daniels. “He has a purchase option, but he wants a couple of things in place. If he takes control of the property, he will proceed with demolition.”

In return, the city will ask that Mazza put up at least a $500,000 performance bond so that if he takes possession but does not follow through, the city will have the money to complete the demolition.

The current zoning for the property is neighborhood commercial.

“Under neighborhood commercial a conditional use is residential. We will support that conditional use,” said Daniels. “For the CRA, city council would have to take action to approve that. Most likely that [CRA area] would be more than just the middle school.”

A CRA is a tax abatement for owners who make improvements to their properties.

“We're moving cautiously and carefully on this,” said Daniels. “The mayor and I would both love to see that building down or heading toward that direction by the end of our administration. We certainly don't want to leave it for the next administration to have to deal with.”

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