MOUNT VERNON – Plans to redevelop the old Mount Vernon Middle School property, at 301 N. Mulberry St., were delayed during Thursday afternoon’s Municipal Planning Commission meeting.
The owner of the property, Mulberry MV, LLC’s Jason Gunsorek, came into the meeting hoping to gain approval from the commission to redistrict the property from an NC Neighborhood Commercial District to an R-3 Multiple Family District. This would mean his company would be able to redevelop the school, which has been vacant for 20 years, into an “upscale apartment complex” that would contain an estimated 48 to 50 apartments.
During the meeting, however, the commission noted that part of Gunsorek and attorney Noel Alden’s proposal would not fit within the guidelines of an R-3 Multiple Family District property.
Gunsorek expressed interest in turning the school’s auditorium into a public fitness center, which would go against R-3 zoning code. He also hinted at developing retail shops on the property, which is also noncompliant with R-3 guidelines.
After a brief discussion between Gunsorek and Alden, the attorney told the commission they wanted to withdraw their motion from the meeting, as they would work on filing a conditional permit to deal with the zoning regulations.
“We’re going to file a conditional use permit and we’re going to go down that route,” Alden said afterwards. “They expressed a clear desire that we do that. So we’re going to do that and we’re going to move forward quickly, because something needs to be done on that property, no question.”
Since the Mount Vernon Board of Education sold the school in 1998, the property has become a “cancer” to the surrounding community, safety service director Joel Daniels said. The structure is worn down and notorious for housing the area’s homeless, which has led to multiple fires.
Several contractors have wrestled with the property over the years, sometimes putting in new windows or roofing, although none have followed through with fully redeveloping the building. Gunsorek assured the commission he would not follow the same path.
“We’re looking for these types of projects. I know there’s a lot of history around people coming in with plans, but we’re not doing this to mow the grass and put a fence around the property,” Gunsorek said. “We’re doing it to develop it, and develop it we will.”
Mulberry MV, LLC has owned the property since 2015. Gunsorek's company has redeveloped multiple properties in a similar fashion across the state of Ohio, including one in Mansfield and one in Fremont.
The proposed complex on N. Mulberry St. would contain one, two and three-bedroom units, with those costing an estimated $500, $700 and $900 per month to rent, respectively.
Two community members who attended Thursday’s meeting questioned the premise of building an apartment complex on the property.
Iva Drake and James Hoey, who both live in the same house on W. Burgess St. (which runs adjacent to the school), voiced concerns over drugs and crime being brought into the area because of the proposed complex. They questioned how parking would fit into the tight neighborhood streets that surround the school.
While both residents agreed that something should be done with the property, they strongly rejected the idea of the apartment complex.
“I don’t want it in my neighborhood. I understand, you’re all about money,” Drake said, facing Gunsorek. “I’m all about living. You don’t live there, I do.”
Alden said they understood these issues and will consider them down the road in the approval process, when the public would also be able to have more input on potential development. For now, he and Gunsorek will focus on redistricting.