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Lamar Elementary to become Corpus Christi city offices

The old Lamar Elementary School building will be renovated for use by the city of Corpus Christi and the police department. The property is owned by the Ed Rachal Foundation, which will lease it to the city for 20 years with a 20-year renewal option. Courtesy photo

Lamar Elementary School, which closed in 2017, has been given a new lease on life. Now owned by the Ed Rachal Foundation, the new lease will go to the city of Corpus Christi, which plans to move city offices, including 30 police officers, into the building. The announcement came at a City Council meeting March 24 at which council members voted from two different rooms in City Hall to rezone the campus.

The City Council convened its regular Tuesday meeting from City Chambers and a conference room in City Hall to adhere to the “rule of 10” imposed by Governor Greg Abbott to help slow the spread of COVID-19, a disease caused by the novel coronavirus that has reached pandemic levels.

No more than 10 people are allowed in one area at a time, according to an executive order put in place March 21 by Abbott. Councilors in the conference room joined the meeting over speakers.

The Ed Rachal Foundation had initially proposed moving the Good Samaritan homeless shelter into the building, which sits on 2 acres of property at 2212 Morris St. at Crosstown Expressway and Agnes Street. That idea was rejected by the Planning Commission after protests from residents in the neighborhood.

Converting the 50,000 square feet of space into city offices should cost about $4 million, according to the foundation, which will lease the property to the city at about half the market value. Changes include a separate entrance for the police department, additional parking, and a storage facility. Department of Public Safety officers will share the space with the city police department.

Changes sparked a conflict in recommendations from the Planning Commission and city staff. While staff backed an Intensive Commercial Zone with use of a special permit, the Planning Commission recommended Neighborhood Commercial.

Neighborhood Commercial would limit the amount of property that could be used for new buildings or extensions. The council voted 8-1 for a Commercial Intensive without use of the special permit. Councilor Gil Hernandez of District 5 voted no.

“I don’t believe we would offer this to another commercial interest if it were not the city asking,” he said. “Things can change over time.”

The city already has a 20-year lease with a 20-year renewal option in the works with the Ed Rachal Foundation, said City Manager Peter Zanoni.

“We know we are going to be there and how it will be used,” Zanoni said. “It allows us to expand without having to conform to existing building setbacks. It’s the most flexible we can get on that site.”

According to the Ed Rachal Foundation, renovations will be complete in about 18 months.

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