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City to bid Church Street School project

What has long been a dream for many is about to come true.

The Andalusia City Council on Tuesday authorized the letting of bids for renovating the historic Church Street School, which will become a cultural arts center. The project is being done in partnership with the Andalusia Ballet Association, which is providing $500,000 for the project and will be the managing tenant once the project is done.

Mike Hamrick, an architect with the firm of Goodwyn Mills and Cawood, attended the council’s workshop meeting.

“This is a fantastic building, with great history and culture,” Hamrick said. “The city is fortunate to have it, and it will be good to see it occupied.”

Hamrick said he has worked closely with Meryane Murphy on the plans.

City Clerk John Thompson said city employees already have done most of the demolition work inside the building in preparation for the project, and the city is working toward having the project completed by the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year,

“We’ve been looking at this building for more than eight years now, and we are so excited to finally be at this point,” Murphy said.

“We believe this will be a showplace for Andalusia and whole surrounding community,” she said. “We will make you very proud.”

Mayor Earl Johnson pointed out that the major portion of the building has basically been empty since 1999.

In April 2009, the council committed to a formal agreement with the ballet, which will occupy a third of the building, in exchange for the organization’s commitment of financial resources toward the renovation of the building. At the time, the city expected to contribute up to $1 million for the project. Until bids are received, it is unknown what the city’s portion of the renovation will cost.

Johnson said Tuesday that the ballet will occupy the main floor of the Church Street Cultural Arts Center, and the top floor will be “roughed in” so that it could be customized for future tenants.

Work should begin this fall.