City and school swap property; plan new developments

Jun 20, 2012

The Columbus City school board voted last night to accept the largest land swap in its history, in a deal with the city that ends up in a win-win -- and new construction -- for both parties.  

The district is trading the south side Reeb Elementary School site for a 52-acre parcel on the east side that once held the troubled Woodland Meadows housing complex.  It would become the new home of the Africentric School, which is currently shoehorned in between Livingston Avenue and I-70/71 downtown.  Superintendent Gene Harris says city council is poised to approve the deal as well.

GH: City council will be approving on Monday, or the upcoming weeks.  and then there'll be an additional closing, an actual closing for the property.

The city would gain valuable space on the south side that would accommodate plans to build a new community center.  Harris says the former woodland Meadows site would give the kindergarten-through-12th grade Africentric school twice as much room, while keeping the lottery-based school accessible to all parts of the district.  Facilities chief Carol Olshavsky says the new site -- which could be open by 2015 -- could answer several needs.

CO: the district has looked for a long time for a high school site where we could hold regional competitions, so it can serve more than just the Africentric program from an athletic standpoint.  the community is interested in recreational space, both interior and out, and I think we can work with them on some really fun community based space.  Whether it's urban gardens or whether it's just play areas for children; basketball, tennis courts -- whatever the community thinks would be good amenities, we're happy to work with them and turn it into a real feature for the community as well as for the school.

Olshavsky says the district will hold onto the downtown Africentric site for the time being, using the building for swing space as other schools are constructed.  part of the site, on the east side of Grant Avenue, is being leased as parking; something Olshavsky says may become more valuable as construction continues on I-70/71 through downtown.