If owning a band hall sets the heart to marching, the Mart Independent School District wants to talk shop. Or how about an ag building, a gym, a second gym, a bus parking lot or a practice field? They are all available.
Local real estate broker Brad Harrell has the keys in his pocket. He and Keller Williams Commercial are looking to move the entire disused Mart ISD complex on Navarro Street now that replacement parts are on the way. The 1929 high school building, the oldest in the complex, has not been in use by students since 2017.
Construction is progressing on a new high school scheduled to open in August 2020 for fall classes. It is the centerpiece of a $9.2 million bond issue, the largest in the district’s history, and will include additional room for science, technology and agriculture-related programs.
Asking price for the remaining Mart ISD site is $100 shy of $1 million. But the offering is structured to include separate quotes for almost a dozen structures and vacant lots scattered across more than 16 acres near the heart of Mart, the rural community, population 2,200, that lies east of Waco on State Highway 164.
The gym is listed at $249,000; the high school building, $399,900; administration building, $84,900; a smaller gym and classrooms, $199,900; the prekindergarten complex, $64,900; and the band hall, FFA building, bus parking lot and ag sciences building, all priced at $49,900 apiece.
The full listing is accessible at harrellcre.com.
The complex took shape in stages beginning nine decades ago, and all buildings have electricity and access to city water and sewer service. Having no zoning, the site affords “numerous possibilities,” according to the listing.
Numbers aside, the sale is tugging at emotions, including those of Mart ISD Superintendent Betsy Burnett.
“It’s like selling grandma’s house. For some, it’s like selling the family farm,” Burnett said with a sigh. “Everyone knows it has to sell and they know we have to start looking for a buyer now. The longer it sits unoccupied, the worse shape it’s in. The old high school, for example, has been around since 1929. Families from many generations went to school in that building.”
Tough decisions will put community leaders to the test, Burnett said.
“No one wants to see it torn down, but it’s full of asbestos,” she said of the high school building. “It would take a lot of money to redo.”
Ultimately, the school board will have the final say.
Board President Frank “Pete” Rowe said he would not hesitate selling the site to a user proposing to raze the complex.
“Sentimental value don’t pay the bills,” Rowe said. “You have to do what’s best for the kids, the district and the taxpayers. With homecoming approaching, I had one person ask if he could tour the place, go through it one last time. We’ve had two or three groups go in it. That’s not a big problem. I personally have no idea the kind of money it would bring. We’ve told Brad to field any offers and bring them before the board. It’s a board decision. I just want to get it on the tax rolls, do something with it to benefit the community.”
Money generated from any sale “will be plowed right back into the district,” Rowe said.
Adam Voight, director of marketing and research for the Harrell and KW Commercial real estate team, said he could envision interest in the site from industrial prospects, homebuilders or educational entities.
Voight said a recent inquiry came from an “international school, an English training center,” which he declined to name for confidentiality reasons.
“I believe they have one location in the United States and are trying to add another,” he said. “The old football field might be an ideal location for duplexes, if someone wanted to go that route. We’ve had several people looking at it for investment purposes. The price per square foot is rather low, which attracts interest. The way the classrooms are set up, one might consider self-storage units. A few tracts lend themselves to residential.”
Price for the high school translates to $8.54 per square foot, while that for the gymnasium is $18.65 a square foot and the administration building, a 2,650-square-foot structure that resembles a residence, $32.04 per square foot.
The district’s high school and middle school students have been sharing what was formerly the elementary school, while elementary school students have been in the former middle school.
Despite rain delays earlier this year, the new high school campus is scheduled to open in August.
Burnett said ideally someone would buy the entire disused site, creating an almost $1 million windfall for the community and school district already seeing progress on the horizon. Developers have proposed both a wind farm and a solar farm in the area, and a long-awaited overhaul of the town’s water system and streets will start in early December, backed by $17.5 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the community has announced.
The $330 million Prairie Hill Wind Project would bring dozens of turbines to McLennan and Limestone counties, and a Chicago-based energy company, meanwhile, has proposed placing a $500 million solar farm between the communities of Mart and Riesel.