Carr building reverts to limbo again

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Carr Central High School in 1990s photo.(File photo The Vicksburg Post)

[4/13/04]The owner of the former Carr school building did not seek tax credits this year that could facilitate redevelopment of that property, prompting Vicksburg officials to again consider taking back the dilapidated structure.

Robert Rosenthal bought the property five years ago, announcing plans to convert the Cherry Street structure into apartments. He has sought tax credits from the Mississippi Home Corporation every year until this year, but has been turned down each time.

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Mayor Laurence Leyens says the city doesn’t want the building back, but feels something has to be done.

“We can either continue to push it off and look at it for another 20 years or we can go ahead and do something about it,” Leyens said.

Under terms of his deal, Rosenthal paid $105,000 for the school, but the city could buy it back for $45,000 if nothing was done in a year. That deadline passed four years ago with the city board tacitly agreeing to give Rosenthal more time.

The property is a Mississippi Landmark and contains asbestos, making any rehabilitation there more complicated.

The first work needed is replacing the roof and sealing the outside. Leyens, who has been personally involved with rehabilitation of historic buildings, said that could cost as much as $2 million.

He said the city has been approached by two parties who say they are interested in the property. Leyens said the city would be interested in buying it back from Rosenthal if a deal can be struck with one of those parties.

“We’re looking to own it for only one day,” Leyens said.

City officials held off on taking action against the property when school officials announced plans to return to community schools. Those plans included the school complex on Cherry Street, but Carr Central was removed from that design because of costs.

Mississippi Home Corporation, a quasi-public corporation, targets first-time buyers and has programs for people in low- to moderate-income households. One of its programs provides tax credits to developers to build low-income homes.

The Carr building, named for early Vicksburg professor J.P. Carr, opened in 1924. It was abandoned 24 years ago and was scheduled for demolition in 1994 when it was declared a protected state historical property.

It cannot be demolished without state approval, and any changes to the structure have to be approved by the Department of Archives and History.