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Editorial: School site has pluses

After mulling over several scenarios in recent years, school officials have settled on a headquarters site ó the former Winn-Dixie building off Jake Alexander Boulevard ó that offers the potential to consolidate the system’s scattered office personnel at a reasonable cost in a convenient location.
Compared to new construction, converting and expanding an existing building ó or adaptive re-use, as it’s often called ó offers cost-savings for county taxpayers. The estimated $10 million price tag isn’t cheap, by any means, but it would provide the space ó 55,000-65,000 square feet and 240-plus parking slots ó needed to house administrative workers now spread among multiple locations. In place of a vacant “big box” building, the site off Jake Alexander would gain a bustling office complex, with a sizeable workforce plus numerous daily visitors. While consolidating its offices holds benefits for the school system, refurbishing the site could have the added advantage of boosting surrounding businesses, including the nearby Hurley Y.
If the proposed project moves forward, however, some questions will need to be answered. Among them is what makes this site more desirable than upgrading the Ellis Street administration building. Financing is another. Currently, county officials want the school system to pick up half the headquarters tab. Rowan citizens will want the details of the funding spelled out. School officials have made a solid case that consolidation offers longterm savings in maintenance costs, but taxpayers will want more details on the total costs and the payback timeline. Some board members also raised questions about access to the Winn-Dixie site, which sits adjacent to the busy intersection of Jake Alexander and Lincolnton Road. The area has changed markedly in the past year or two, with the addition of a Walgreen’s across the street and developer Lane Yates’ mixed retail-office-residential Salisbury Village just down the road. More commercial development ó and more traffic ó is coming. Childress Klein Properties, a shopping center developer based in Charlotte, has an option to build on a 97-acre tract at Jake Alexander Boulevard and Brenner Avenue.
School and county officials have kicked around the central office question for years, with possibilities ranging from refurbishing the Emporium in Spencer to building a combined school office/conference center in downtown Salisbury. The Winn-Dixie do-over may not offer the perfect solution, but it holds the promise of providing the essentials for a consolidated headquarters operation ó adequate space, accessible location and sufficient parking. School officials have made the case for a new central office; now they’ll need to make the case that this is the best option.

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