A few days ago I wrote a story for chattanoogan.com
about getting to tour the soon-to-be-closed Red Bank Middle School building on Dayton Boulevard. I also included with it a slide show of the inside and outside of the structure.
For some reason, the story seemed to result in a higher-than-normal number of emails, and I also realized after checking YouTube that far more people than is typical viewed the accompanying slide show, even though it is several minutes long.
As a result, I realized that the school and school building must have much meaning to a lot of people, particularly those who used the structure when it was Red Bank High School.
I also seemed to sense a deep sadness from a number of alumni over the school complex’s planned razing after it is vacated at the end of the school year. And that has prompted me to make a suggestion, even though I usually try to remain a non-partisan journalist.
Although I know the Red Bank Commission has already voted to tear down the property, and maybe not many people have spoken out against the move so far, I would still encourage the city fathers to look at preserving the entire facility.
The classroom structure could be converted into condominiums, not rental units, and the older gym and auditorium – both of which are unique architectural and historical gems – could be preserved for community and recreational use along with the other parts of the physical plant.
As someone who also enjoys reading about various preservation projects around the country, I have heard of countless stories of similarly beloved old school buildings being remodeled into condominium units. And in the process, they usually become positive developments for their neighborhoods.
I feel certain that the Red Bank school could be preserved in a way that also results in long-term, positive economic investment for the Red Bank community as well, and that an improvement in the overall quality of life could result. And I feel strongly that some Red Bank alumni might be interested in living there.
Another shopping center or well-known retail facility at the site might be nice, but the business might want to vacate the property in a few years, as often happens.
Unless the city is already legally bound to tear down the site or is already in serious negotiations with a business, I would encourage the community to form a task force of commissioners, community advocates, Red Bank school alumni and others to take a few weeks to try to solicit proposals and examine more thoroughly what to do with the facility.
Although I still contribute stories regularly to chattanoogan.com
, I actually live in Knoxville now and would be unable to become involved in such a process. However, I would certainly be following any developments with much interest from afar, as would the several out-of-town alumni I heard from via email after my story appeared.