COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Abandoned nearly a decade ago, Claflin School, Muscogee County's first-ever school for African Americans may serve a new purpose - one that includes more than just education.
Friends of Historic Claflin, a group working to restore the building to its former glory, have new plans for the property.
Rev. Richard Jessie, the group's executive director, telling News Leader 9 they plan to add 44 affordable housing units separate buildings on the school grounds and units built into the back of the existing building.
But first, Jessie said, FHC has to get approval from Columbus City Council.
"There are some deep restrictions on Claflin," Jessie said, "where we have to use a portion of it for educational purposes."
The city of Columbus currently owns the property, and it has a lease agreement in place with the restoration group.
The group now wants to amend language in their lease, which forbids using any money for non-educational purposes, because, Jessie said, FHC will need a steady income to actually sustain the building.
"We have always been concerned about sustaining the building once it's restored," Jessie said. "Of course, the educational programs we will have– even if they paid a fair lease– would not give the income to properly sustain this. So now, we have a sustainability plan with the affordable housing," Jessie said.
Robert Reed has seen the empty Claflin building going to and from work every day for nearly 10 years.
"It's been here a long time. I remember when the school district was in here, and they moved," Reed said.
Reed would like to see the group to re-open the building.
However, after Rev. Jessie told News Leader 9 the project will cost 12 million dollars, Reed said he hopes the entire community will benefit.
"$12 million? That's a pretty good price tag, I want to know where they're going to benefit, but I hope they do," Jessie said.
Adding to the list of obstacles facing the restoration group, federal agents will have to sign off on the city's request to amend that language relating to the historic landmark.