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|Old high school looks for new lease on life|
|Written by Samantha Munsey|
|Tuesday, 01 May 2012 03:20|
The old Tombstone High School building, which has been vacant since 2005, is back on the market and available for prospective buyers.
Tombstone Unified School District board members voted to terminate their 20-year lease agreement with Bill Smith of J&W Transformations at the most recent meeting. The decision came because the company, which started negotiations in 2010, did not meet the contract’s requirements on time or as scheduled, according to Karl Uterhardt, TUSD superintendent.
“With the lease in position it makes it very difficult for other people to talk about the property or make offers,” Uterhardt said. “By letting go of the lease, people are now able to look at the property.”
Board members decided to search for a real estate company in 2007 for the old Tombstone High School, which is located on 204 E. Fremont St. and had been vacant for two years.
Barbara Highfield, who owns Tombstone Real Estate, got the listing and the property was valued at $2.9 million. It was later reduced to $2.3 million, and now is valued at $1.9 million.
“I knew that property would take a while to sell but I did not think it would take this long,” Highfield said. “As a you can notice, the price has been reduced significantly over the years.”
Smith approached the board two years ago about buying and turning the old Tombstone High School building into high-end hotel, which would later be called the Grand Oriental Hotel. The concept was to keep the existing school architecture and create an interior that was reflective of Tombstone’s history.
“I think the plans he had and what he wanted to do for Tombstone would have been great for the town and would have provided a lot of opportunities for people,” Uterhardt said.
Instead of offering the full, listed amount, which at that point was set at $2.3 million, J&W Transformations proposed to pay $1.8 million and complete some of the school sports fields located at the new high school. But before J&W Transformations and the school district could proceed, officials discovered the new school could not accept financing-offers for school properties. As a result, a Memorandum of Understanding was drawn, which allowed Smith to be on a 20-year lease.
The agreement states Smith would have completed the new sports fields’ construction by this August, which included a tennis court and a field for each football, baseball, softball and track field, in addition to paying the district $300,000 after the work was completed.
“It was kind of an unusual lease and took lawyers months to draw up,” Uterhardt said.
Because Smith was not able to show big progress or provide money for the property since signing the agreement, board member decided they had to look to other offers and options and for the school.
After the school board’s April meeting, Smith received a 45-day notice of the lease termination. The property currently has no other offers.
“I hope that he (Smith) gets funding and makes good with what he has to do,” Uterhardt said. “I still think the project is a would be great for Tombstone.”