The CRA has identified the company involved in the Lee Middle School property deal as Military Lee, LLC, which was formed last month. Photo by: Dispatch File Photo
June 16, 2018 10:06:09 PM
The contents of this article have been modified since its original posting.
A limited liability company called Military Lee LLC on Friday announced its intention to purchase the former Lee Middle School property on Military Road for $450,000.
Columbus Redevelopment Authority, which has been marketing the property, identified Military Lee and announced the corporation's decision in a press release Saturday. Military Lee purchased an option on the 14-acre site in November but remained anonymous for more than six months while completing due diligence on the property.
Military Lee was formed and registered with the Mississippi Secretary of State's Office on May 25, according to the secretary of state's website. Last month, CRA identified the organization as a development group whose principal investors had ties to Lee Middle School and the Columbus community and who had developed local commercial properties in the past.
The registered agent for the company, attorney Steven McEwen of Columbus, did not return a call or an email from The Dispatch by press time.
The CRA's press release did not identify Military Lee's members and said the name of the corporation and the agent are the "only identifying notations in the documents executed Friday."
CRA president John Acker said he didn't know who the individual members of Military Lee are or what other projects they have developed in the area, but said local business owner Scott Berry is involved in the project. Berry and his wife Ruth own an approximately one-acre parcel of land adjacent to the Lee property. Highway 82 forms the northern border of the Lee property and the Berrys own parcels on the north side of the highway as well.
Berry did not return calls from The Dispatch by press time.
According to the press release, CRA representatives contacted the Columbus Municipal School District Board of Trustees and requested the board approve the purchase at a special call school board meeting Wednesday. The school board must approve the sale before it is finalized.
CMSD board president Jason Spears confirmed the school board will take up the matter at a special call meeting Wednesday. He added the board appreciates the support of the CRA and the developer to repurpose the property but said he did not know who the members of the corporation are.
"We're happy about it coming to a conclusion," Spears said. "(We) look forward to seeing the property revitalized to a very useful facility, as well as more taxbase being generated in the city of Columbus."
CRA board members expect the purchase to be finalized within a week, according to the press release.
"These are significant steps we have worked on for months," Acker said in the press release. "These steps mean this is close to becoming a done deal and now only a couple of other steps remain."
Though the property is technically owned by CMSD, the CRA purchased a $1 option on the property in 2016, which was extended for another $1 in 2017. The property had been listed for sale for $1.79 million.
The CRA previously released outlines of Military Lee's plans for the property, which include a mixture of residential and retail development.
Built as Lee High School in the 1950s, the campus housed white students in the final years of segregation in Lowndes County.
Mississippi Department of Archives and History designated the property a Mississippi Historic Landmark last month because of the school's role in segregation.
The campus later became Lee Middle School and closed its doors in 2011 when Columbus Middle School opened. The buildings on the site currently have asbestos, but Acker previously told The Dispatch the developer could take advantage of state reimbursements given to developers who clean up asbestos-filled properties.
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