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LM Board votes to sell former Morrow Elementary

Posted on: July 25, 2017
Photo of Morrow Elementary building

After standing vacant for nearly eight years, the former Morrow Elementary building will soon have a new lease on life.

At its July 25 meeting, the Little Miami Board of Education voted to sell the building and grounds to Trent Heimann of Cincinnati for $20,000. Heimann, owner of the Hamilton Tailoring Company, approached the district and expressed interest in the property after the building was offered for public auction on May 9.

Heimann has a history of refurbishing old properties and creating new uses for the space. In 2000, he repurposed the former Hamilton Tailoring factory in Walnut Hills and created Essex Studios, a collection of individual studio spaces that are rented to more than 100 visual and performing artists, arts organizations, musicians and other creatives.

Heimann said he has a similar vision for the former Morrow school.

“We hope to do a sort of baby Essex Studios,” Heimann said. “We want to be invested in the neighborhood and invested in the community.”

During renovations, Heimann said he plans to keep the “school house charm” of the building, preserving the existing hand-crank pencil sharpeners and chalkboards, for example.

“We want to make something useful and something the community can be proud of again,” he said.

The LM board arrived at its decision to sell the property after several months of gathering input from the community as part of the ongoing master planning process. The district's consultant Emersion Design/Fanning Howey said the Morrow structure showed extensive water damage and the presence of asbestos and mold. Emersion said it would cost approximately $10.4 million to make Morrow a habitable building again or $500,000 to demolish it.

Having fulfilled its legal duty to offer the building for auction in May and receiving no bids, the Board was free to pursue other options, whether it would be to sell, raze or rehab the building. Superintendent Greg Power said that the sale of the property to Heimann is one of the best solutions the district could hope for.

“It appears to me that he is interested in becoming a positively contributing business member of the Morrow community and I think there is potential that he may be the ground floor of some positive development in the village,” Power said. “As he develops this site, I can also see some possibilities for our students to work with practicing artists and for this to become a learning resource for our students.”

Board President Randy Haas said board members were delighted to land this deal with Heimann.

“For several months now the Board has attempted to strike a balance between our community’s attachment to Morrow Elementary and being good stewards of public dollars,” Haas said. “We have looked for a ‘right’ answer and we believe we have found it in Mr. Heimann. We are excited to see what he will do with the property.”

The main block of Morrow Elementary, situated on Pike and Miranda Streets in Morrow, was built in 1913 with additions made in 1939 and 1951. The building served as the area high school until a new high school was built on Welch Road in 1956. When the district was forced to close the building at the end of the 2008-09 school year due to financial challenges, the school was serving preschool through fourth grade.