Large Citizen Turnout for Community Meeting
The old Berea High School built by the WPA in the 1930s is for sale. The facility is located on a large lot of choice property in the center of the Berea business district. The well-constructed brick building will be expensive to demolish, which will figure into the cost of any buyer with plans for development.
It is understood that a Florida company has an option to buy the facility. Their plan would be to demolish the current building to make way for a retail outlet. Attempts to obtain specific information on the deal from the School District of Greenville County proved unsuccessful on Monday. If the deal does not work out between the prospective purchaser and the school district, it is estimated that the property could become available for another buyer between September 2015 and January 2016. The Berea community leaders are researching options for buying the building and using it for a community center should it become available for them to arrange a purchase.
School Board member Debbie Bush who represents the area was introduced, but did not speak to the gathering. She could be instrumental in representing the community to the School District shout the need present itself.
County Council member Joe Dill, who also serves on the Appalachian Council of Governments, was introduced as a key person in obtaining grants should they be needed should the plan materialize.
A zoning change by the county would be necessary before the property could be used for retail operations.
The school district allowed Greenville Technical College to use the facility after a new elementary school was built. Greenville Tech. moved out when their Northwest Campus was ready for occupancy. Since that time the facility has been allowed to deteriorate.
In the meantime, a group of Berea citizens are organizing to save the 80 year old building. Their motivation appears to be twofold. One is sentimental attachment by former students and the other is the need for a community center to house services such as Senior Action.
Last Friday night, community leaders held a community meeting at the new Greenville Technical College Northwest campus, off White Horse Road.
Despite inclement weather, there was a capacity citizen turnout for the event. Gwen Bayne served as the community leader and spokesperson for the event. She showed a short video of photographs from the old school made through the years. Some of the students in the video were present at the meeting as mature adults.
The meeting featured presentations by various county service organizations. Andrea Smith, Greenville County Senior Action Director, discussed the need for a facility in Berea for Senior Action activities. Currently, Berea seniors must travel several miles to reach a Senior Action facility with scheduled events.
Greenville County Council member Willis Meadows who represents District 19 that includes Berea brought a group of County Staff members to answer questions and make brief presentations regarding their work in the Berea Community. They included Assistant County Administrator Paula Gucker and Greenville County Planning Commission representatives Eric Vinson and Tom Meeks.
Thomas Oswald and other trustees of the Eelbert W. Rogers Foundation attended the meeting. They are a nonprofit organization that could provide engineering and other assistance to the community without charge should the citizens acquire the old school.
All attendees signed in and provided contact information and were given an opportunity to volunteer to become part of the ongoing project of saving the school building and putting it to good use in support of the Berea community.