Council green-lights Jefferson School giveaway
As expected, City Council has agreed to give away its Jefferson School/Carver Recreation Center property, a central city complex assessed at $10 million, to a private group that promises to renovate the property and lease its parts back to the City and other public service groups. The complex deal, which includes giving the group nearly $6 million in public money, was the subject of a recent Hook cover story.
The four present members of Council (Councilor Kristen Szakos was absent) voted unanimously Tuesday, September 7 to give the Jefferson School Community Partnership a 12-month option to "buy" the school for $100,000. Because the Council also agreed Tuesday to increase the planning money it's fronting the group from half a million to one million dollars, "buy" becomes a curious term.
Two amendments to the option agreement Council approved included giving Council a right of first refusal to buy back the property as well as a promised revelation of the City's lease agreement prior to the actual sale.
Tuesday's actions regarding the property also included the first reading of a rezoning that would allow the owners to operate a cafe on the premises.
The complex has been lauded as a way to secure over $6 million in tax credits to restore a structure that has won a place in the hearts and minds of many African-American families, as it long served as a school during the period of segregation. The deal has also drawn criticism for putting a history museum of questionable viability front and center, for its secrecy shrouded financial plans, and for putting millions in the pockets of contractors, not necessarily the impoverished citizens of Charlottesville.