The Marshall City Commission recently approved to consider the sale of surplus city properties, including the Marshall Visual Art Center and the City Annex building.
“What we did as staff, we sat down and looked through each of these properties to make sure we did not have any type of interest in them — whether current or future — and so this is what we’ve come up with,” Director of Community & Economic Development Wes Morrison said.
The proposed list includes about 19 properties, including the art center, known as the old City Laundry, at 208 E. Burleson St. and the annex facility, formerly known as the fire/police complex, on 303 W. Burleson St.
The proposed sale of the art facility and annex will come with a couple of strings attached as prospective buyers will be required to maintain the art component of the art center and also allow the city to keep the communications tower rental of the annex, officials said.
“Some of these properties are so small,” Morrison said. “Some are leftover right-of-ways from other projects that we’ve done in the past that they don’t even have an address to them, so it’s sometimes difficult to locate them.”
City Manager Mark Rohr told commissioners this was the first step in the process.
“When we get more specific, in terms of getting numbers back, we’ll have to come back before you and actually have you authorize the sale of the property,” Rohr said.
Regarding the City Annex, Rohr noted that his staff does have an alternate site to move city departments — including parks and recreation, information technology and support services — that are currently housed there.
“I’ll leave that for another night to discuss,” Rohr said.
He mainly wanted commissioners to know that, as part of the proposed sale, the city has an opportunity to retain the large communications tower rental, located to the northwest side of the building.
“What we’re proposing is that we keep the tower rental, which the city receives some revenue from,” said Rohr.
He said the company that rents the tower from the city wants to expand their presence, driving in more potential revenue.
“We have that same entity expressing the desire to have even more property to produce even more revenue — not a great deal of revenue, but some revenue for the city, moving forward.
“So we would propose that we would carve out both those areas for the sale of property and move forward with the sale of the annex building with the understanding that when we get some interested parties we would bring that back before you for official approval,” Rohr said.
VISUAL ART CENTER
Regarding the Marshall Visual Art Center, Rohr reminded commissioners that the Greater Marshall Chamber of Commerce recently moved out of the location for a better space. However there is still an active arts component there in the form of artists in residence, who use the building to rent space to create — and Rohr said they intended to honor and preserve that.
“We think the arts is a very important part of what we do within the city; so we would propose that when we go out for advertising for this particular piece of property, assuming the commission approves it, that that would be with the condition and a caveat that that remains as part of the sale,” Rohr said, noting the city has been approached by three different parties since his arrival, and two of those parties have expressed an understanding of the need to retain the arts facility within the building.
Rohr said he personally thinks that a strong art presence is just as vital as the preservation of history when it comes to downtown redevelopment.
“I think long-term we would like to work with that group to find them a spot in our downtown redevelopment project as we move forward, assuming of course, that is one of the recommended projects,” he said.
Rohr said the city will benefit in three ways from the proposed sale of all properties on the list.
“No. 1 ... the vacant properties (on the list), we no longer have to maintain them,” he said. “The second benefit, obviously, is we get a one-time infusion of cash that we can use to reinvest in other parts of the city. We have many needs for that money.
“And the third part is hopefully we’ll get those properties on the tax rolls,” said Rohr. “So we’ve went from three different directions by moving forward with the sale of these properties to get them out from the city’s control and ownership and back, hopefully, into the private sector; and we can realize all three benefits in doing so.”