GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — As voters in Guilford County consider a $1.2 billion bond to rebuild, relocate and shore up dozens of crumbling schools, a pristine educational campus sits in north Greensboro in search of a future.
These are 100 acres at 4334 Hobbs Road, including a 22-acre lake, that feature 31 buildings of 412,712 square feet, an $18 million athletic center and natatorium and a variety of athletic fields, all constructed on an environmentally advanced system to provide heat and cool.
And it’s empty.
The American Hebrew Academy closed in 2018-19, but it remains a well-attended piece of property in one of the most densely populated areas of Greensboro.
Nearly a year ago managers of the facility, the American Hebrew Association, had decided to stop marketing the campus as the school that it was built to be and to consider new opportunities for its future, including a possible sale.
But it’s not something the city of Greensboro had considered buying, Mayor Nancy Vaughan said late last year.
And it hasn’t been discussed publicly among leaders of Guilford County Schools, spokesperson Janson Silvers said.
Instead, the most recent discussions have been with the U.S. Department of Health and Social Services about leasing the facility as the home for displaced immigrant children awaiting reconnection with their families. Officials have said that 700 to 800 12-to-18-year-olds could be housed there, the News & Record reported.
Lee Stevens, a senior adviser in the Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs for HHS, had written a letter to local officials to outline the crisis created by the intake of children and the needs for facilities, and William Scarborough, who represents the school, has said that DHSS has continued to show interest in the facility, but there has been little action.
Repeated calls and emails to Stevens – and others at DHSS – seeking a status report have drawn no informed response.
Scarborough, a certified public accountant by trade, said he is handling the business of the property for the American Hebrew Academy’s board. He is the contact on the facility listed on the facility’s web site.
“Representatives from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services visited the campus last spring, which was widely reported in the media. It was also reported that they visited other locations in the region,” Scarborough wrote in an email to WGHP.
“While federal officials have made additional visits to the campus, there have been no further substantive developments.”
He followed up last week by saying there was nothing new happening in these discussions.
Melvin “Skip” Alston, the chair of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, had worked in the spring to help bring those factions together, but Alston didn’t respond to a request to discuss where the plan stands.
Although the city issued a statement last year about the potential for DHHS to use the facility, Vaughan said she wasn’t “privy to discussions” more recently about the facility’s future.
Greensboro City Council member Nancy Hoffman, in whose District 4 the property is situated, said she has had very few comments about the facility and its future from residents of District 4 or the Jefferson Woods area where it is located.
“We’ve had very little negative input,” Hoffmann said.
Silvers said GCS really had nothing to say about the facility, that officials don’t “comment on an action the district is taking until something actually happens. It’s just normally our policy not to comment on possibilities or hypotheticals.”
Not for sale
Meanwhile, Scarborough said the academy is operating with a very small staff, limited to maintaining the campus.
“I am serving as a financial adviser in the absence of a director of business affairs or similar position,” he said. “I have no formal title with the school.”
He did say that the facility is not being marketed for sale
“The property was marketed briefly in 2019, but no agreement resulted from that effort,” Scarborough said. “It has not been on the market for lease or sale since that time.”
Scarborough confirmed that American Hebrew officials had not received any queries from the city of the school system.
Vaughan said there is no path for the city buying the property as a future investment and said she though the property sold for between $35 million and $45 million when the current ownership group bought it.
“I don’t foresee us being involved,” she said.