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Developer finalizes purchase of Lee Middle property


Dispatch Staff Report



The Lee Middle School property on Military Road officially has a new owner. 


Columbus Redevelopment Authority finalized the sale of the 15-acre property to Military Lee LLC for $450,000 Friday morning. 


The sale comes two years after the CRA purchased a $1 option on the property from Columbus Municipal School District to market it to developers. Members of Military Lee, including local businessman Scott Berry who owns property adjacent to the Lee Middle site, secured an option to purchase the property from the CRA in November. Earlier this week, the CMSD board sold the property to CRA for $1, allowing the CRA to complete the transaction with Military Lee. 


Military Lee plans to convert the main building into 24 one- and two-bedroom apartments, converting the cafeteria into a restaurant, the gymnasium into grocery store space and constructing more retail spaces and apartments at the site. 


Originally built as Lee High School in the early 1950s, the original campus housed white students during the final years of segregation in Columbus -- a fact that ostensibly earned the property state landmark status from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History in May. It later became Lee Middle School, which shut its doors in 2011 after Columbus Middle School was built on Highway 373.  


Military Lee plans to leverage the site's landmark status for historic preservation tax credits for the redevelopment. It also is applying for the Brownfield program, which could reimburse through sales tax 2-1/2 times the amount developers spend removing contaminants (like asbestos and lead paint) at the site. 


The developers already have agreed with the city not to build housing at the site that would be eligible for government subsidies.




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