Panel to offer its ideas for Bates school in Nov.

September 18, 1994|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Sun Staff Writer

Wiley H. Bates High School, vacant 28 years, will have to stand idle a little longer.

A committee reviewing plans for the historic school is to make its recommendation to Annapolis, Anne Arundel and Maryland officials by the end of November.

The city, county and state all have an interest in the project. The county owns the property, it lies within the city limits, and the state holds outstanding bonds on the building. The governments have come close to figuring out what to do with the once all-black school. Jerome Klasmeier, director of central services for Anne Arundel, said he is optimistic that something will be done this time.

The latest plan calls for converting the building on Smithville Street into a community center, a senior citizens center and 49 apartments for the elderly. The ball fields would be taken over by the Annapolis recreation and parks program.

Mr. Klasmeier predicted that if all three governments approve the plan, it will take three years before the first occupants move in.

"It's taken time," said Jean Creek, president of the Bates Foundation, which has spent eight years trying to revive the school. "But I'm optimistic because the vision is there and we're closer to it than we were yesterday."

Supporters of the project were encouraged recently when the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places, a designation that protects it from demolition and makes it eligible for state and federal grants.

Ms. Creek said members of the nonprofit Bates Foundation dream of turning the landmark in the black community into a center that would "provide service from the very young to the very old."

The Bates Foundation wants to manage the portion of the building being set aside for a community center, which would house public service agencies.

Ms. Creek said her group is lining up financing for the proposal and is working with Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse, a Baltimore development firm.

The state has promised to spend about $1 million to remove asbestos from the building.

"All of this is about cooperation," Ms. Creek said.

The school, built in the 1920s and closed when the county finished integrating schools in 1966, badly needs repairs.

The county has being trying to decide for at least a dozen years what to do with the school. Officials thought they had the answer two years ago when a private developer offered to help pay for renovations in exchange for permission to build townhouses on part of the surrounding 16 acres.

That plan was scuttled when the Annapolis City Council refused to amend the city's zoning to allow construction of the townhouses.

In December, a committee of state, city and county officials, assisted by a community advisory group, began to meet to discuss what to do with the building.

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