Garden District News...
Keeping you abreast of what is going.
Live auction possible for Georgia Tucker
BY BARBARA LEADER • BLEADER@THENEWSSTAR.COM • SEPTEMBER 26, 2008
Monroe City Schools would like to consider selling the former Georgia Tucker Elementary in a live auction, but that would take a waiver from the state attorney general.
Members of the facility committee discussed possibilities for the school in a meeting Thursday.
Committee Chair Mickey Traweek suggested a live auction to liquidate the property.
An A.G.'s opinion from about 20 years ago is preventing that from happening. The opinion said the School Board cannot sell property for less than its appraised value.
The property was recently appraised for $350,000 when the School Board advertised it for sale. There were no bidders, so the board must reconsider how to get rid of the property.
Upon sale of the property, the district will owe about one-third of the sale price to the city of Monroe, which owns a portion of the land.
Board member Brenda Shelling previously suggested the board reconsider a decision not to house the district's central office in the building. Construction supervisor Charles Monroe told the committee the size of the building is not adequate to accommodate all district offices.
Monroe also said the renovation project would cost $4.5 million to $5 million.
Business manager Derenda Flowers told the committee that current central office facilities are in poor condition.
Traweek suggested the board ask a Realtor to find property to relocate the district's bus garage from behind the central office.
Moving the bus garage would make room to build another central office complex or renovate current facilities.
The committee also discussed having an architect look at Lee Junior High and Wossman High School to see if new gymnasiums could be built within budget.
Committee members said both facilities were inadequate to accommodate the number of students and/or parents that would attend functions.
In other business, Monroe told the committee that two modular buildings to alleviate overcrowding at Lexington Elementary should be in place and operational within three weeks.
In Your Voice
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If Lexington is overcrowded, then why dont they re-open Georgia Tucker?
Tucker school: Repackage it for profit
SEPTEMBER 21, 2008
Sadly, Georgia Tucker Elementary School continues to remain in a state of decay. Abraham Lincoln said, “Property is the fruit of labor — property is desirable — is a positive good in the world.”
Maybe that is why the crumbling of this building is so offensive to me. I have no specific ties to the structure other than it being a “positive good in the world.” The thought of it not being preserved is heartbreaking.
The “property is desirable.” As another bid period ends with no potential buyers, I wonder what can possibly save this stately building.
I will not try to disguise my first point. It is nothing more than a shameless plea to the Biedenharn family. The new Coca-Cola Museum is taking shape. The reopening of the Bible Museum is eagerly anticipated. ElSong is already a tremendous tourist draw. Picture a day of touring these museums then enjoying a nickel coke in the gardens while waiting for the trolley to come and take all visitors to the Delta Airlines Museum and an al fresco lunch at the Georgia Tucker Café.
If that idea has no merit, why do we no longer have a YMCA building? I know the organization is going strong. The general consensus is the building must be gutted, so why can’t it be redesigned with a weight room, basketball court, aerobics/ yoga/pilates room and community area? The grounds appear large enough to accommodate either an indoor or outdoor pool. The grand old oaks provide great shade for a playground.
The Monroe City Schools system has outstanding and prolific grant writers. With the epidemic of childhood obesity, is there any money out there that would allow the district to work in tandem with the Y? In exchange for helping with the remodeling of the building, the district will have access to the facilities for field trips and physical education classes. Student workers can even help run the facility. There may even be vocational training opportunities in management, day care personnel and personal training.
I understand the school district’s apprehension about Georgia Tucker becoming a financial black hole. Who really knows what lurks in the walls and air vents of old Louisiana buildings subjected to decades of humidity? But what if the facility can be turned into a moneymaker?
Imagine the Monroe City Schools’ Perform-ing Arts Center. Choirs and orchestras will have an acoustically suitable space. The community will have a new venue for wedding receptions, family reunions, Christmas and office parties and charity dances. The rental fees from these events will eventually offset the initial financial investment required to refurbish the building.
If all else fails, there is the PBS series This Old House recently filmed in New Orleans. Maybe someone can contact Kevin and Norm, and they can find their way to northeastern Louisiana and help us with a plan for this old school.
I’m just not ready to give up. The solution is out there somewhere and it does not involve losing an important piece of our area’s history. If this property is restored, the entire community for years to come will enjoy the “fruit of labor” invested in its preservation.
Nancy Counts is a writer living in West Monroe.
Take action on Tucker
SEPTEMBER 19, 2008
Eight years after Georgia Tucker Elementary School went vacant, the Monroe City School Board appears as dazed and uncertain as ever about that decaying landmark's fate.
This week, the school district came up empty in its effort to interest private investment in the building, located in the heart of the Garden District. It's easy to understand why.
The School Board has long been of multiple minds when it comes to the empty school, which was built in 1920 in an architectural blend of styles that still captivates those who drive by it. On one hand, the school system would like to preserve the school, which has begun to make some "endangered" lists because it is crumbling before Monroe citizens' eyes. On the other hand, the School Board is unwilling to spend the money itself. Got a third hand? Wouldn't it be nice if we could turn a buck on the school's sale?
That split mind is what may have driven away the handful of potential investors in recent weeks. Five entities — two local companies and three from in state but outside the region — expressed interest in buying the decaying school. But at least one of those potential bidders, Vantage Health, had asked that it be stipulated that bidders would preserve the building's architectural integrity, a worthy goal that would be costly for the winning bidder. The School Board did not include such a stipulation in the bidding process, although School Board members had expressed wishes that the building be preserved.
End result: No one was willing to pay a high price, $362,000, for a building that may take millions to save and transform.
Consequence: The school remains in the hands of the School Board, which has neither realized a profit on the building nor saved the endangered historic structure.
It's far too late for the School Board to gamble with this building's future. It's time for this school board to clear its collective head on the Georgia Tucker site. First and foremost, do board members want to: A. Preserve this architectural treasure? B. Realize maximum sales potential for the Garden District site? C. Watch the building crumble and collapse?
Our pick is A. If that is impossible, our fallback choice would be B.
Right now, School Board members are by their own apparent indecision defaulting to Choice C, watching the building crumble and collapse.
Let's get serious about Georgia Tucker. Today.
More than two years ago, U.S. Sen. Mary L. Landrieu honored the city of Monroe with a certificate of recognition for the city's dedication to preserve and restore the G.B. Cooley House and Georgia Tucker Elementary School. The occasion was "Monroe Preservation Day."
While the city government has taken great strides to preserve the Cooley House in southern Monroe — the city has control over the Cooley House — the city School Board, which controls most of the school property, has continued to waffle in its decisions on preserving the school.
In Your Voice
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I grew up riding by bicycle by Gergia Tucker school back in the 60's - does anyone know anything about Lida Benton Elementary? I heard it was long gone
9/19/2008 4:59:16 PM
What a great old building. I agree, Monroe should come together to save the old girl with the exception of the out of character cafeteria. What a great asset.
I don't know of any other City that would allow her history to crumble as Monroe does. Modern forward thinking cities understand the economic rewards history provides. Imagine a walking tour of the Garden District anchored by The Biedenharn Centre and the old Georgia Tucker facility. Maybe even a return to pleasure boating from Forsythe point............
History can provide us with a future.
Way to go News-Star.
9/19/2008 3:05:10 PM
pipes, that story is correct. But on the bad side, who wants to do any business with the current school board acting like royalty? Oh yeah, their friends and family members seeking supply and/or service contracts for the system, that's who.
9/19/2008 2:36:21 PM
Actually, if you look at the Roselawn side of the building, you will see a facade almost equally as nice as the Stubbs side. The view is blocked by the cafeteria that was added several years after the school was built. If the cafeteria addition was removed, you would have a truly beautiful structure.
Also, on the historic side, how many of you know one of Admiral Byrd's huskies is buried on the grounds? Hence the mascot, the Huskies. The story I have always heard is that Admiral Byrd was on a speaking tour in Monroe when one of his huskies got loose and was hit by a car. The dog was originally buried at the American Legion hall in Forsythe Park but all the school children at Georgia Tucker saved up their pennies to buy a headstone and the dog was buried at Georgia Tucker. If you walk up to the building on the Stubbs Avenue side between the two doors, you will see the headstone of "Unalaska."
9/19/2008 1:41:24 PM
Replying to OriginalKing:
Bulldoze it and sell the lot.
It's attitudes like this that has gotten Monroe into the aesthetic shape it's in now. We've lost so many of our beautiful, historic buildings. Buildings that were architectural gems. Just take a look at the pictures of "old Monroe". It was a different city then, in so many ways. One of the few things we can preserve is architecture, and we've done a lousy job at doing it. The old Monroe High School, old City Hall, old Post Office, the old Jewish Temple, the Paramount Theater, numerous hotels...the list goes on and on. We have to preserve what we have left. It's irreplaceable.
9/19/2008 8:53:52 AM
No bidders on Georgia Tucker
BY BARBARA LEADER • BLEADER@THENEWSSTAR.COM • SEPTEMBER 17, 2008
Monroe City School Board member Brenda Shelling wants the board to take a second look at the Georgia Tucker Elementary property.
The deadline to submit bids to buy the historic school property was Monday.
Purchasing manager Litta Goins said she mailed five bid packets, two to Monroe businesses and three to other businesses in the state. None was returned.
"It may have been a blessing in disguise," Shelling said in a board work session on Tuesday.
Shelling is suggesting the board look at renovating the school and using the property for the central office facilities of the district. The board had once considered this idea but hesitated at the costs of renovation.
The renovated building could allow the school system to centralize district offices, which are in at least four locations across Monroe.
Shelling said the sale of the properties, which the district owns on Roselawn and Auburn avenues in Monroe, could go to fund the renovation project.
Superintendent James Dupree said renovation costs could be as much as $3 million or more.
One of the interested parties was Vantage Health, Inc., but Vantage didn't make a bid when the Monroe City School board did not comply with its attorney's request to include special provisions in the sale.
Georgia Tucker interest fades
BY BARBARA LEADER • BLEADER@THENEWSSTAR.COM • SEPTEMBER 16, 2008
The bidding time has ended, and the Georgia Tucker Elementary School building still belongs to the Monroe City School Board.
When bidding ended Monday at 2:01 p.m., no potential buyers had completed bid forms to purchase the historic property.
"Its back to the drawing board," purchasing manager Litta Goins said Monday.
Goins said she sent five bid packets to parties who had expressed interest in the property, including two local companies and three others within the state.
"It is concern for us that there are no bidders," Garden District Alliance spokesman Drew Fluke said. "We were certainly hoping that the building would go to a bidder that would restore the property."
Goins could not remember a time when the school system had put out an item for bid that there was not a bid.
Shortly after bidding closed, Goins said she had no idea what the board's next step would be.
"We may look at the possibility of changing the bid specs or the minimum bid," she said, indicating however she had only moments before e-mailed Superintendent James Dupree with the notification there were no bidders. The minimum bid on the bid form was $362,000.
Board member and facilities chairman Mickey Traweek said the district would have to weigh all of its options.
"A couple of people have indicated that we could come back and do a live auction," he said. "The only other option would be for the school board to go back to Plan A and renovate the property."
Any decision would need to be approved by the board's attorney and the board.
Part of the property, which the board has offered for sale with the Georgia Tucker facility, belongs to the City of Monroe.
The Monroe City Council recently agreed to allow the school board to sell its portion of the property at the appraised value, but city attorney Nanci Summersgill said that that is the extent of the agreement.
Any deviation from that, including a live auction, would require the school system to approach the city council for another agreement.
Vantage Health Incorporated, a locally owned business, made a presentation before the beginning of the bid process at a Monroe City School Board meeting.
Vantage detailed the company's plans for restoring the building and requested the board stipulate that bidders must be willing to preserve the building.
When Vantage received its bid packet, the provision was not included. Goins indicated that the school system hesitated to include the renovation requirement so as not to limit the pool of buyers for the property.
An attorney for Vantage asked board attorney Doug Lawrence to add an addendum to the packet, which would include a zoning change for the property — the property is zoned for a school — or a contingency that the successful bidder not take possession prior to a favorable zoning decision as well as a realistic appraisal of the property.
When no change was made, Vantage did not submit a bid.
The Monroe City School board meets at 6 p.m. today at the Media Center on Auburn Avenue.
It is unclear whether the sale of Georgia Tucker will be added to the agenda.
The school was built in 1920 on land donated by Col. Frank P. Stubbs. It was named after his mother, Georgia Tucker Stubbs, and is at 401 Stubbs Ave. in Monroe's Garden District.
The school is beloved for its beautiful architecture — a mixture of Italian Rennaisance and Romanesque with a touch of Spanish Baroque. It is anchored on each corner by a tower with triple-arch windows on the second story. The most noteworthy features on its red brick walls are a clay tile roof and Persian columns accenting the school's facade.
The school was closed in 1999 to house a pre-kindergarten center and school system offices. That lasted about three years. Since then the building has been used as a warehouse.
Zoning keeps Vantage from purchasing Georgia Tucker
BY BARBARA LEADER • BLEADER@THENEWSSTAR.COM • SEPTEMBER 5, 2008
The bid process for the sale of the former Georgia Tucker Elementary School has left one interested buyer reconsidering whether to make an offer.
A bid packet issued recently fails to address a zoning change on the property or a stipulation that the building be preserved. Consequently, Vantage Health Inc. contends the board's appraisal is not valid.
Vantage, a locally owned business, wants to restore the building and wants the bid process to require restoration.
The school is beloved for its beautiful architecture — a mixture of Italian Rennaisance and Romanesque with a touch of Spanish Baroque.
Vantage made a presentation in April at a Monroe City School Board meeting that detailed the company's plans to restore the building. It requested the board stipulate that bidders preserve the building and that it be re-zoned as commercial property.
Vantage property manager Doug Walters said Thursday that when he left the April meeting, he thought the board would comply with his request.
However, when Vantage received the bid packet in late August, the company realized that the stipulation was not included.
"It appeared to us that they would honor what we had discussed," Walters said. "We can buy any building and fix it up, but we are trying to save that school."
Walters said that without the stipulation, bidders are not on a level playing field — a fact that could prevent Vantage from bidding at all.
He feels that a developer who has no interest in preserving the school would be able to place a much higher bid on the property.
"Anyone can bid to buy the land and in some future date tear down the school after it has rotted down and been condemned," Walters said.
Board member Mickey Traweek said he is worried that including the requirement to renovate limits the pool of buyers.
"I'm afraid that it would do more harm than good," he said.
Walters estimated renovation would cost at least $1 million. The minimum bid for purchase of the land and the building is listed as $362,000 — a figure Walters said is based only on value of the land, not preserving the building.
Vantage is asking the board for an addendum to include a zoning change or a contingency that the successful bidder not take possession until a favorable zoning decision and a reappraisal of the property.
"We were making a good-faith effort, but they've thrown us a curveball at the last minute," Walters said. "They didn't come to us and say, 'We are not going to be able to do this.'
"In good faith, we thought they were going to do what we had talked about."
Traweek said he has been contacted by four potential buyers who seem interested in renovating the building.
"Somewhere we have to have faith that it will be restored correctly," Traweek said. "At least we've got a glimmer of hope that it will be restored right and it will be done without taxpayer money."
Traweek said the only way to ensure renovation of the building would be for the board to "buy the building back."
However, he said Thursday he does not believe a majority of the board is willing to do that.
Bidding on the property closes at 2:01 p.m. Sept. 15.
Happy 4th of July, friends and neighbors!! (7/4/2007)
Best wishes from the Garden District Neighborhood Alliance for a happy and safe Independence Day!
Be sure to head to Forsythe Point (across the levee) today for the Waterfront Festival and Fireworks Extravaganza. Gates open at 11am, and the entertainment kicks off at 3:15pm.....performers include the terrific Johnny O'Neal, dressed up naked, cowboy up, and delta blue....all fantastic entertainers!
Food, drinks, arts & crafts are available throughout the day....and of course, the FIREWORKS begin at 9pm sharp.
Thanks to all who contribute to put this event together for us each year, specifically the Monroe Jaycees, Centurytel, and the City of Monroe. Much thanks also to the other sponsors of this 'Extravaganza"!!
From a GDNA standpoint, we want your holiday to be safe and secure.
* Fly your U.S. and GDNA flags today. Be proud of our country and our community. (PS...if you don't have a GDNA flag, contact us and we'll help you out with that ASAP. Take advantage of the special holiday price of $45 and you''ll get you a beautiful green GDNA flag and personal front-door delivery!!
* Make plans now to attend the GDNA Frozen Fiesta Social at the home of Jim and Barbara Bailey on Friday July 20th. It'll be a time of great fun and fellowship. You'll be receiving more detailed info within the next week. We look forward to seeing you there!
* Also, please remember to be safe around your home, as well. There has been a slight increase in the crime in our neighborhood, as happens most summers. Be sure to keep valuable items locked up and out of sight....not visible in your vehicles, garages, or yards.....most crimes are 'crimes of opportunity'....so don't give thieves an easy target. Protect yourselves and your possessions.
Best wishes and have a great July 4th!
February 13, 2006
GDNA Members and Supporters:
Thursday February 9th the GDNA held its first meeting of the year at the Biedenharn Museum Welcome Room at 6:30 PM. Approximately 30 plus members attended, three of the Board Members (Michael Echols, Scott Latham, and Mary Ann Riddle).
Many new members signed up for 2006-07 memberships. Guests were Mayor Jamie Mayo and Police Jury member Walt Caldwell.
Ralph Calhoun from the Biedenharn Museum and Captain Carol Andrews from the Monroe Police Dept. were there to address the group along with membership updates from the GDNA Board.
Ralph Calhoun, of the Biedenharn addressed the group on plans of the new additions being made in the near future. He spoke for about 30 minutes and was very informative. Following Mr. Calhoun was Capt. Andrews who addressed the group on Neighborhood Watches, crime in our area and how we can prevent crime by individually being aware of our surroundings.
Mr. Merlin Smith, a concerned resident and member of GDNA then addressed the group briefly about one last attempt to save Georgia Tucker. Mr. Smith noted there would be a meeting on Saturday, Feb. 25 at 10:00 am at the Neville High School Auditorium. At this meeting interested citizens will give their ideas on the Georgia Tucker project.
New members were recognized for 2006 and a discussion of some of the plans/functions GDNA will sponsor this year. In late April a Grill Out or Gonzo Garage Sale, in July a Frozen Fiesta, in the fall we will have our Dogs and Doins and in Dec. we will have our Taste of the Garden District Christmas function.
During the spring we will sponsor a plant/azalea sale to raise money for our continued Beautification Projects.
The meeting was adjourned and members visited and discussed some things of personal interest to them for our neighborhood.
Many thanks go out to all those that attended the meeting and to the Board Members who made it possible.
If you have yet to become a member of the Garden District, feel free to send a check in for $20 to P. O. Box 14891 Monroe LA 71207.
Also we are planning on placing the order for new Garden District flags in the very near future. If you haven't ordered one yet, you can still send a check for $50 payable to GDNA at the above PO box. Deadline for ordering will be Friday February 24th. This should make them available for delivery in early March.
Thanks and we look forward to a wonderful year in the Neighborhood. If you have idea, questions or thoughts, please feel free to email us at our new email address - firstname.lastname@example.org
March 27, 2005 (Easter Sunday)
Good Morning, friends and neighbors!!
When you drive down Forsythe Avenue, please note the renovations to the 'other' flowerbed at the intersection of Forsythe and North 5th Street. Gene Jones, Lloyd Anderson, and Deb Lindley have spent many hours advocating for and putting in their own muscle power to get it ready for looking beautiful again. These folks are to be congratulated for their energy, enthusiasm, and concern for our neighborhood. They are great examples for us to follow in our continuing efforts to beautify Monroe in general and our neighborhood in particular.
Today's group of helpers also included Hunt Neely, Merrijane Yerger, and Bob Eisenstadt. Their commitment to this project is tremendous and we are seeing real results from their labors. Much is still to be done, however, and more volunteers will be needed throughout the year.
I'm asking you to consider your role in the beautification of our neighborhood. Call one of these people or email them and ask how you can help. I bet they'll have lots of ideas for you. Our partner group, Forsythe Avenue Beautification, can also identify ways for you to help. They are busy assisting with project throughout Monroe. Their good works can be seen in all areas of Monroe.
Thanks again to all the folks who are helping renovate one of the loveliest areas of town....it's a project worth our time, commitment, and support.
Have a wonderful Easter holiday!!!!!!!
Please make your plans to attend these meetings. Our greatest single asset is our willingness to get politically involved. We are known as "those people" "CAVEs (Citizens Against Virtually Everything)" and "NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yard)" by those who dislike what we do. We also have a name as fierce protectionists of our neighborhood and quality of life among those who admire our stands, even though they may not necessarily agree with us. Whether an admirer or a detractor, many in the area governments recognize that they will have tackle us on issues affecting our area. The worst possible thing we can do is to assume someone else will handle the problem. Democracy is a wonderful thing; exercise your rights!
February 22, 2002
The amendment to the campus use ordinance for Georgia Tucker is to be introduced at the 2/26 council meeting. The public discussion will be at either the 3/12 or 3/26 council meetings. Please make your plans to attend in support of this issue.
I talked to Councilman Arthur Gilmore this morning. He is beginning to hear from a couple of people who do not want the school board to locate their offices there. My personal feeling is that this is a battle that should have been fought years ago. We have known since the bond issue this was coming; we should welcome the school board rather than try to drive them away (especially since they look like they are trying to work with us).
Call me if you have any questions on this. As I say, please make your plans to attend this meeting. I will address the entire Garden District later but wanted to get with you as we are the ones most directly affected.
February 21, 2002
Good morning Garden District! A couple of happenings in the District I need to keep you abreast of.
First, if you have been down Forsythe Avenue in the last couple of days, you have seen that the trees are being planted in the median. A big thanks to Steve Mintz and his group and Richard Moore and the City of Monroe for their efforts and accomplishments.
Second, there has been some action on the Georgia Tucker issue. Nothing is written in stone but it looks as if all our concerns are workable.
1. Zoning - There will be an amendment introduced in next week's City Council meeting to change the C-1 (Campus Use) ordinance to include elementary and secondary schools. This gives the School Board the use they need of the building but still gives us protection against future changes. Thanks to Bill Weirick for his work on this and to Councilman Arthur Gilmore who will be sponsoring the amendment.
2. Parking - The parking lot will be on Roselawn as planned. Instead of just one entrance, however, there will be a second entrance added on North 4th across from Bob Sale Camera. This will give two entrances, the new one on N. 4th and the originally planned one for Roselawn. The thinking is that trying to put access onto a one-way street (N. 5th) is just not workable plus it puts a long driveway all the way across that side of the lot. I believe Traffic Engineering has pretty well said no to N. 5th.
3. Windows - Mr. Pickering, the project manager, had a meeting with the representative of the Louisiana office for historic preservation yesterday and the plans were reviewed. What has been suggested is that an insulated window be placed inside the existing windows. This is often done in historic renovations. It allows the building to retain its historic appearance and still allows the economic advantages of insulated windows. Even better, it looks as if this idea will actually cost less than the planned aluminum windows! Obviously, some of the existing windows will need to be repaired--there are rotted sills, crossbeams, etc.--but it will allow the old windows to stay. HOORAH!
I want to say a special thank you to Mickey Traweek, our school board member, for his hard work in trying to resolve these issues.
Many thanks to all of you for your involvement in this and other issues. A concerned and active citizenry is our greatest asset. I will keep you informed as I become aware of information to be passed along. At this time, I am unsure whether the school board wants to have another meeting with us to address the changes or will simply accomplish all of it when they come before the Heritage Preservation Commission. I will let you know of that meeting.