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Johnson City Commission approves fundraising agreement to preserve Langston school

Zach Vance • Updated Nov 4, 2017 at 12:09 AM

The Langston High School preservation group is now authorized to launch a $500,000 fundraising campaign that will supplement the $1.8 million Johnson City leaders already set aside to renovate Johnson City’s first African-American public school.

After meeting with the group earlier in the week, City Commissioners unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding with the Langston Education and Arts Development Corporation during Thursday’s meeting.

Michael Young, representative of the Langston preservation group, said the city made a few amendments specifying the exact amount, $1.8 million, it intends to spend on the renovation.

“It was just legalese. We’ve been working back and forth, emailing back and forth with the city attorney,” Young said. “I’m certainly happy with it.”

When the project was in its infancy, architect Tom Shanks used some of the Langston group’s ideas in his initial rendering, which included a foyer, an additional set of enclosed steps and exterior improvements.

“Both the exterior placement of the staircase and the addition of the foyer/reception area are very important, because they impact the usable square footage for programming,” Ginger Keller-Ferguson, a grant writer who is assisting LEAD with fundraising, said.

However, when that design’s price came in at $2.3 million, or $500,000 more than the city allocated to spend, commissioners directed Shanks to complete a more cost-effective rendering, which eliminated the foyer and staircase addition, lowering the project’s cost to around $1.8 million.

That’s when LEAD stepped in and requested the City Commission’s permission to raise private dollars to make up the $500,000 difference.

Once renovations are completed on the city-owned building, LEAD will lease the facility, for not less than two years for each $100,000 contributed, and provide multicultural education and programming. 

Bidding on the project is expected to begin sometime in April and will include bids for both designs.

If LEAD can raise the $500,000 by June 1, or have a guarantor committed, the city will move forward on the design favored by the Langston group.

“The City will proceed with the additional alternative, only if the City receives by June 1, 2018, a guarantee of funds from LEAD to cover all of the costs of the additional alternative as reflected in the accepted bid,” the memorandum of understanding stated.

To donate to the LEAD fundraiser, send checks payable to LEAD or the Langston Educational Arts and Development Corporation, to 219 E. Millard St., Johnson City, TN 37601.

Email Zach Vance at zvance@johnsoncitypress.com. Follow Zach Vance on Twitter at @ZachVanceJCP. Like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/ZachVanceJCP.

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