UPDATE: The city of Morristown has agreed to buy the historic Morristown College and plans to begin tearing it down this week to build a new park.
The city and the former school’s owners reached an agreement last week, according to Mayor Gary Chesney, for $900,000.
“We’re enthused and excited to come into ownership of the site,” Chesney told WBIR 10News Monday morning.
Chesney said officials want to turn the site into a park that will address the historical significance of the city’s history.
The fate of historic Morristown College comes into play on Monday when a Hamblen County judge hears arguments about the long-abandoned school’s future.
On one side is the city, which wants to turn it into a public park. On the other, is the current owners who propose transforming the 52-acre East Tennessee campus into a residential and commercial hub.
Morristown leaders in late June filed a petition in circuit court to condemn and take over the campus, calling it a “safety hazard.”
City officials argue that the property contains a number of abandoned structures “in various stages of deterioration,” some that are “covered with asbestos.” Local leaders say they want to secure and demolish the structures “for the safety of its” residents, “especially as the property is often trespassed upon by homeless people and others.”
The petition says the city plans to develop a public park and “must acquire this property” in order to complete the project.
Named as defendants in the petition are: MCD, LLC, which is the ownership name developers Brant and Amy Enderle placed the property under after they bought it, and BAJM Holdings, LLC, which lists Amy Enderle as its “sole owners.”
Also named is attorney and property deed trustee Dennis Mike Roberts and Commercial Bank, which is the holder of a $550,000 note on the property.
The Enderles, who recently purchased the Knoxville Center Mall, bought the 52-acre Morristown campus for $275,000 in 2014 at auction after it had fallen into foreclosure.
Soon after, they met with city and county leaders and residents to talk about the project, which they want to convert into a mixed-use residential and retail development.
The plan is to include single-family residential homes, as well as apartments and an assisted living facility. The developers also want to repurpose the college’s former gym into a museum to honor the history of the college, which opened in 1881 and closed in 1994.
The developers, however, have done little physical work at the site, which continues to stand in disrepair.
And city leaders say they’re tired of waiting for something to happen.
Records show that city officials appraised the land at $700,000 and said it would cost $707,000 to demolish it and remove the asbestos. Because the cost of demolition exceeds the value of the property, the city says its current owners would not be entitled to any money.
The hearing is set for 1 p.m.