- The council delayed action on buying 88 Hermitage Ave. for $20.3 million.
- Council members had concerns over renovation costs.
- In 2019, the council voted against buying the property for $14.4 million.t
- Mayor John Cooper, then an at-large council member, voted against buying it.
Metro Council on Thursday deferred a decision on whether to purchase a $20.3 million plot of land on Hermitage Avenue to incorporate into the public park system amid concerns over unknown renovation costs.
Nashville Mayor John Cooper included $20 million in his October capital spending plan for the purchase of state-owned property at 88 Hermitage Ave., the site of the former Tennessee School for the Blind.
Cooper’s administration has indicated the former school’s historic structure could represent an opportunity for adaptive reuse, though what that would be is unclear.
Council member Courtney Johnston said she could not support buying the property, which will likely require mitigation for lead-based paint and asbestos as well as extensive building repairs.
“This is a multi, multi-million renovation to restore this property, and we don’t even know what we’re going to use it for,” Johnston said.
Many councilmembers questioned why the land wasn’t purchased sooner at a lower price.
Cooper voted against purchasing the property for $11.3 million in 2019 when he was an at-large Metro Council member. Former Mayor David Briley moved to buy the land for Metro Nashville Public Schools, which intended to demolish the Tennessee School for the Blind to build a new high school.
Cooper was one of six council members to vote against the bill. He defeated Briley in the 2019 mayoral election.
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The 3.1-acre parcel was valued at $14.4 million in 2019, according to the assessor of property. The state appraised the land at $20.3 million in July, Director of Legislative Affairs Mike Jameson said.
Council member Freddie O’Connell said the city will now pay double the price for the same parcel of land it considered in 2019.
Jameson said the initial proposal to purchase the property included plans to tear down the historic structure, and this plan opens opportunities to “adaptively reuse” the building.
Council member Dave Rosenberg said Thursday the property should have been purchased three years ago, but Metro Schools did not sufficiently explain its plans for the property.
“The opportunity now … is the acquisition, otherwise the state would certainly be within their rights to sell it to private development, in which case we would lose our opportunities for development with public interest in mind,” Jameson said Monday.
Cassandra Stephenson covers Metro government for The Tennessean. Reach her at [email protected] or (731) 694-7261. Follow Cassandra on Twitter at @CStephenson731.