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Published: Thursday, 4/28/2005

Pair from Toledo seek arts center at Lyons building

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

LYONS, Ohio - The fate of the old Lyons school building remains tied up in court, but two Toledo residents have expressed interest in purchasing the structure and turning it into a nonprofit arts center.

Lee and Estelle Blackburn have submitted plans for the use of the elementary school building to the village of Lyons and the Evergreen Local School District.

The district owns the building, which was closed in December.

Students from that building and an Evergreen school in Ai moved into a new elementary school on the district's main campus near Metamora, Ohio.

Jack Avery, a Lyons resident who tried to purchase the building, has filed a legal complaint in an effort to stop the school district from selling or demolishing the structure.

Mr. Avery, whose $5,000 purchase offer was rejected by the school board in February, contends in his complaint filed in Fulton County Common Pleas Court that school officials breached a contract they had with him for the purchase of the building.

School officials have said that the board did not approve or sign the purchase agreement.

After a recent hearing, the matter was set for mediation in August.

Ken Jones, Evergreen superintendent, confirmed that the Blackburns are interested in the property. They could not be reached for comment yesterday.

According to the proposal sent to the village, the Blackburns are offering $6,000 for the property. They propose to reside in the structure and have studio space.

"Ultimately, our goal is to act as permanent artists in residence of a formally established, not-for-profit arts center with the old classroom building and gymnasium serving as studio space and rehearsal space," the proposal states.

"We think it could make Lyons a hub of regional activity for young and up-and-coming artists in the fine arts, dance, video and computer art, writing, and music fields. Our backgrounds in these fields make us uniquely well-suited to manage such an endeavor."

Vicki Smith, village administrator, said the proposal will be presented to council members during their meeting Monday night for discussion.

Village officials have expressed concerns about the fate of the structure, which abuts village property.

Mr. Jones said the school board cannot address any proposals for the building because of the pending lawsuit.



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