Wrecking ball next for Brownsville Middle

  • March 18, 2015
  • /   Shannon Nickinson
  • /   education
The next step for Brownsville Middle School may be the wrecking ball. Escambia School Board members Tuesday evening voted unanimously to reject an offer from GSI Brokerage to buy the property, which abuts Oakcrest Elementary School on Hollywood Avenue. GSI, the financial arm of GSI Recycling, offered $475,000 for the property. Offers from two other buyers over the years since the school closed in 2007 have fallen through and its condition has deteriorated since. GSI Recycling owns a scrap yard across Hollywood Avenue from the property. GSI’s owners said they wanted to buy the school property to use some of the building for office space and to use the property as a kind of staging area for trucks making deliveries to their business. The sales proposal first came to the board in January, but action on it was delayed at that time. GSI’s lawyer Robert Beasley has said his clients agreed to stipulations in the proposed sales agreement language that would have prohibited the scrap yard business from expanding to the school site as long as Oakcrest was open as a school, and for one year after Oakcrest’s closure, should that ever occur. Read more about the proposal here. Even so, Thomas said he had misgivings that the sale was in the best interest of the district given the proximity to Oakcrest, which has about 700 students and whose enrollment has been growing in recent years. “(GSI) said they wanted to be a good neighbor, that they had seen people try to purchase it over the years, and that they believe it would relieve traffic and congestion in the community,” Thomas said. “My obligation is to the students and the district.”

Beasley said this afternoon that "Mr. Thomas said they wanted to keep that property for future school use at Oakcrest. That suits my clients perfectly. They have no issue with the school but did not want a high density residential development, which would add to the traffic issues in the neighborhood."

Thomas said the district received bids for the demolition of the property before the offer from GSi came in. The next step, he said, is that he will bring to the board a contract for the demolition of the building at the April board meeting. “We’re going to end the Brownsville Middle saga,” he said. “The building is in a state where it would cost anyone quite a bit of money to bring it up to code.” Thomas said the property will be more useful in the long-term with building gone. “Then we’ll have latitude to make plans for Oakcrest and or the community” with regards to that property.