Builder’s concept plan stays alive for old school property

       Eddie Bishop is nothing if not determined, when it comes to the original Bristol school site at 730 N. Walnut St.

A view northwest from the corner of Monument and Walnut streets shows the 1.1-acre school property that was created for Bristol Elementary in 1891 and most recently housed the Bijou School until 2009.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Seeking to purchase the now-vacant 1.1-acre property from District 11 for a commercial-retail redevelolpment, Bishop had been working with a lender since last fall, “but at the last second,” just before the contract ran out at the end of June, “the lender backed out,” he explained this week. “It's a very difficult real estate environment.”
       Bishop then paid a fee to get an extension from the district on his purchase option. That too came down to the wire, but in time for the Aug. 25 school board meeting he secured two partners and agreed to pay an additional $18,500 for the property (raising the original district asking price to $300,000), including a non-refundable $20,000 cash deposit.
       Bishop now faces another deadline - he needs to close on the property within six months or the purchase price goes up $2,000 a month, not to exceed the 10-month mark, according to the deal approved by the school board Aug. 25.
       But the area builder has no complaints about the arrangements. “We want to work with the district,” Bishop said. “We understand the holding costs that the district has, and we felt we should participate with that.”
       The location most recently had been the home of the Bijou School (alternative high school), which moved to the former Whittier school site in fall 2009. The school district then started looking for buyers for the Walnut Street property.
       In the months before the recent drama, Bishop had described conceptual plans to the neighborhood and the school district. The concept - which he said this week has not changed - is to renovate an existing building (the original school was built in 1891), and turn it into retail or office space. At a later date, on the south end of the property, he would build single-family residences, possibly in a “brownstone” style.
       Bishop said he did not yet know when he would submit a formal plan to the city, but he's putting it together.
       He also emphasized that he wants to keep working with the neighbors and that “we don't take anything for granted,” as far as their support.
       Overall, “we're excited to go forward,” he said. “We know it's a great project.”

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