GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — A tornado-damaged school, which has sat vacant for five years, could soon have new life.
Guilford County commissioners have plans to purchase the former Erwin Montessori School off East Bessemer Avenue in Greensboro for $100,000. The county is in the process of closing on the land and should officially own it within the next few weeks.
Commissioners have no clue yet what they’ll do with the property. It’s not the way they usually operate, but they want to give community members a chance to voice their opinions, so this can be a place that benefits everyone.
“I don’t like the idea of us as elected officials saying that we’re going to do something for the community … they haven’t asked us to do,” Chairman Skip Alston said.
That’s why Alston is looking to the people living and working along East Bessemer Avenue to see what they want.
“Another nice recreational center, retail and housing and that type of thing. Apartments, a Black farmer’s market came up. A skating rink came up,” he said.
Those are some of the ideas being tossed around to fill the nearly nine-acre property where commissioners originally planned to create a space to help the homeless population.
“I was very sad to hear that they were going to not do the resource center, the homeless resource center here,” said Karen Monteverdi, who lives in the area.
Monteverdi has lived on East Bessemer Avenue for nearly two years and hopes whatever is decided will help and not harm the area.
“Maybe something that can give people a sense of community,” she said. “Resources would be good. One of the things that we had talked about was maybe a farmer’s market kind of situation. This is a food desert, so I think it would be very helpful.”
The school has been empty since 2018 and isn’t in great shape. Looking around the property Monday afternoon, FOX8 crews saw several doors and windows open and signs people have been staying in the building.
Alston said he’s gotten a look inside, and there is serious mold damage.
“We’re going to have to look and see whether might it be more feasible based on the plans that the neighborhood come up with whether or not we should tear everything down and then start over instead of trying to renovate,” he said.
Commissioners will meet with community members in November to see the plan they’ve come up with for the space. After that, the county will work to fund the project, possibly looking to the city and state for help.
“We told them we were not going to put anything in there that would that they wouldn’t want,” Alston said. “We’re living up to that pledge and making sure that they decide on what they want.”
The community has put together a group of people dedicated to brainstorming ideas for the land. One member told FOX8 the group has not made a final decision yet but is meeting Tuesday night to discuss.