Cleveland weighs gifts of buildings; offices stay downtown

Cleveland weighs gifts of buildings; offices stay downtown

November 16th, 2011 by Randall Higgins in News

The First Tennessee Bank building in Cleveland, Tenn.

Photo by Harrison Keely /Times Free Press.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- City government is not leaving downtown.

The Cleveland City Council, faced this week with gifts of two buildings, accepted one downtown in a historic location at 283 First St. NW.

The second offer involved a four-story office building built for First Tennessee Bank at 775 Raider Drive.

The First Tennessee building created concern among downtown merchants, including members of MainStreet Cleveland, because it is outside the downtown area. The original offer for the building was made, according to the would-be donor, so city government offices could be consolidated in a central location.

Councilman Richard Banks said moving city offices would be counter to all that has been done by the city and MainStreet Cleveland and county government in the past few years to bring events downtown and promote new business development there.

The council unanimously approved a resolution that "no municipal offices of the City of Cleveland shall be relocated out of the central business district in the downtown area ... without a majority vote of the members of the Cleveland City Council."

Members then unanimously approved a motion to donate the building to the Cleveland Board of Education.

Board members toured the building, across from Cleveland High School, last Friday. Former board member Bill Brown spoke on the board's behalf Monday while members were attending a Nashville convention.

Among possibilities for the building, Brown said, is using it to consolidate the school system's staff development center on North Lee Highway and the central office building and technology services. The Bradley/Cleveland Public Education Foundation also is interested in relocating to the building should school system offices move there.

"They are very interested in the possibilities of using all or a portion of that building," Brown said. "Certainly the possibility of acquiring a consolidated campus for those in our current tax environment would be very difficult."

Those facilities have been described by school officials for years as overcrowded.

Meanwhile, the city accepted the small, one-story First Street building, owned by attorney James Webb. The donation was made without any restrictions.

The building, one block from the courthouse, sits over a spring that can be seen from the basement.

"That is Taylor Spring, the birthplace of Cleveland," Banks said. "The water is as clear as crystal."

According to history books, Cleveland's first white settler was Andrew Taylor, who built a cabin near the spring.