Another old Anniston building needs a new use
by Laura Camper
Mar 05, 2012 | 4783 views |  0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Said to be still a rather sturdy structure, the old Noble Street School was built during an early period of great growth in Anniston, the mid-1920s. (Anniston Star photo by Bill Wilson)
Said to be still a rather sturdy structure, the old Noble Street School was built during an early period of great growth in Anniston, the mid-1920s. (Anniston Star photo by Bill Wilson)
An old elementary school at the corner of Noble and 22nd streets is getting second looks lately as some local groups look to expand their operations.

Owned by the city of Anniston, the Noble Street School building has been empty since November 2004 when Gadsden State Community College’s Anniston Center moved to McClellan.

There has been occasional interest in the building. In 2010, developers considered creating housing in the building, but the idea was abandoned.

Councilman Ben Little has proposed turning it into a one-stop shop for social service agencies. That project also has had little luck getting off the ground, though.

But some local people are looking at the property and seeing opportunity for themselves.

Rosetta Dean, president and CEO of Sharp-Dean School of Continuing Studies, has approached the city about buying the school, said Don Hoyt, Anniston’s city manager. The Sharp-Dean School, which teaches kindergarten through 12th grades, operates now a couple blocks away at 1910 Noble St. in a renovated house.

Dean declined to comment on the proposal Friday.

At the City Council meeting last Tuesday, the Rev. Charles Gregory approached the council about purchasing the school so he could expand Victory Headquarters Christian Center, which he leads.

The church is a few blocks away from the school building, at 2418 Wilmer Ave., Gregory told the council members.

“We are vastly outgrowing that location,” he said. “Parking really is the biggest problem that we have.”

Gregory told the council his church is interested in buying the property at a “modest price,” in order to build a new sanctuary on the land.

“We would like to keep our ministry in the heart of the city,” Gregory said.

Councilman Herbert Palmore said he had to smile when he heard Gregory say modest cost.

“You said a modest cost and I say, well, everybody would want that,” Palmore said.

Palmore said the city had hoped to put a commercial business on the property. But he said he would entertain Gregory’s proposal since no businesses had come forward.

David Schneider, executive director of the Alabama Trust for Historic Preservation, said the former school building is historically significant. He said he filed an application to list the building on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010.

The building was completed in 1926 during a population boom in Anniston, Schneider said. The school closed in 1973 as the city’s school system desegregated, according to board of education member William Hutchings. Noble Street had been a white school, Hutchings said.

According to the application filed in 2010 by David Schneider, in 1971 and 1972, the school system appeared in court to determine whether it was in compliance with federal desegregation mandates. The U.S. District Court ordered the Noble Street, Glen Addie, Woodstock and South Highland schools closed to bring the system in compliance. In July 1976, the City Council declined an offer to sell the school according to a story in The Anniston Star.

In 1981, Gadsden State Community College moved into the building.

Although the school has been empty for the better part of a decade, even today the building looks to be in good condition and there has been interest over the years in renovating it, said Toby Bennington, Anniston city planner.

The building is near downtown and Quintard Avenue, an advantage for many purposes, Bennington said. The ideal, he said, would be for someone to renovate the building for a use that would complement the neighborhood.

Schnieder agreed.

The building’s good condition and the availability of historic tax credits could make it attractive to a developer, if it were advertised, Schneider said.

Right now, though, Bennington said the building’s location is making people take notice. However, if the city were able to market the building it might be able to get more offers on the property and choose which is be best for the community, Bennington said.

Star staff writer Laura Camper at 256-235-3545.

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