The Plains -- school building

The former school and office center for the Athens City School District in The Plains.

Soon to be available – one large fixer-upper in The Plains. Former school and former office building. Future use is up to you.

The Athens City School District last summer moved out of the former school-turned-office-building on The Plains Road. The main office operations are now located in Chauncey.

“The only thing remaining at The Plains currently is using the gym there for (youth league) wrestling practice,” said district Supt. Tom Gibbs. The gym is in a second building.

“We would like to work with a local partner to either repurpose that building or find a use for the property that fronts The Plains Road,” Gibbs said. “I’ve had a couple of people ask in passing, but nothing of any substance.”

He said demolition might be the best course of action.

“In my opinion, the property becomes much more attractive if the buildings are gone,” said Gibbs. “The cost to renovate (or) update them is prohibitive.”

But nothing is going to happen right away. The School District plans to use the building for storage over the next year or more as new schools are being built and operations are shuffled between various locations.

“The district has not formally announced the building for sale or taken steps to do so at this time,” said Gibbs. “I have spoken with our county Commissioners, as they are looking for locations for some of their operations. To date, I’ve had no firm interest.”

MEANWHILE, ANOTHER LOCAL government entity has been contemplating a possible move.

“The Athens Township Trustees have recently been considering relocating from the current township complex on West Union Street (in Athens)… to a location in the unincorporated area of the township closer to our service area,” confirmed Trustee Steven Pierson. The current complex includes an office and maintenance facilities.

The school property in The Plains looks to be about the right size but “the activities of the township are not necessarily compatible with the neighboring uses, which are predominately single-family residential,” noted Pierson. “We wouldn’t be the best neighbors in a residential area given our type of activity and hours of operation, even though there are no zoning regulations that would prohibit such a use.”

Nearby residents would probably prefer a park, and there has been talk or putting one in the area, although paying for it would not be easy.

“At The Plains Community Improvement Committee meetings, there has been discussion about creation of another township park on the east side of The Plains Road,” Pierson said. “However, because care of the existing recreation and meeting area is financed by scarce general fund dollars, expanding recreational opportunities would have to also identify funding sources.”

Area residents might also like more housing opportunities. A short drive up U.S. Rt. 33 in Nelsonville an old school was rehabilitated into apartments and received a warm welcome. That project was done by a Columbus-based company.

“The preservation and adaptive reuse of Nelsonville School Commons by Woda Cooper Companies, Inc. took nearly a year of study and consideration before our public announcement of a viable project,” recalled Joe McCabe, a company vice president who was involved. “The goal to save the structures was a community priority, the property having been transferred to the Nelsonville Restoration Foundation for a variety of uses until such a time a project like Woda proposed became viable.”

Contacted by The Athens NEWS for comment, McCabe offered encouragement for the Athens school district to consider alternate options to demolition until well-thought proposals can be received.

“When possible, interim nonprofit organizations with creative short-term lease uses can be temporary stop-gap measure to ensure the structures remain occupied until a larger redevelopment plan can materialize,” he added. “Once structures are lost to demolition, so are the unique architectural and historically significant environments they originally created.”

According to Supt. Gibbs, one of the challenges for school officials will be that the large field behind the old Plains office location is used routinely by youth teams for practices.

“Any plan to sell or repurpose the property would have to include a plan either maintaining a portion of the property or for finding another suitable space for that purpose (practice field),” Gibbs said. “It may be that in the short term we demolish the building in a few years and continue to use the land itself for youth practices and recreation.”

As for the Township Trustees, Pierson pointed out that “the relocation or new construction of a replacement township hall and maintenance facility… could be offset with the sale of the existing complex which is located in a highly desirable area in the city (of Athens).”

The prospect of obtaining a good price for the property could “significantly offset” the cost of making a move, he said. And he indicated a good spot to go would be Vore Ridge Road or Luhrig Road, close to the Lavelle Road intersection.

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