What will become of this ‘iconic’ brick building in the Cherry neighborhood?

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If you’ve jogged around Cherry Park, you’ve likely set eyes on the Morgan School. The brick structure sits at 500 S. Torrence St. in the Cherry neighborhood and currently houses a charter school, until Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools sells it. Which is the plan, once the lease runs out in June 2017. The charter school is set to vacate.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission jumped in with an offer to buy the building, which isn’t an unusual move. The Commission makes an offer like this three or four times a year, said Consulting Director Dan Morrill.

“We have a revolving fund which allows us to buy and sell endangered historic landmarks,” he said, clarifying that the money comes from local tax dollars.

Morrill started to investigate Morgan School in the Cherry Neighborhood last spring when he heard Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools might sell it. Now, CMS is selling it as “surplus property.”

Morrill said the Commission is going after the building for a few reasons. Designed by architect Louis H. Asbury, it has distinct architecture that is reflective of the type of school buildings built across America in the 1920s. Opened in 1927, it became the centerpiece of the Cherry community, where neighborhood children went to school, and it became a symbol of that community’s African-American culture.

“Cherry has been in many ways a sort of poster child for gentrification,” Morrill said. “This is the most iconic building in the neighborhood.”

If the Commission does purchase the school, it will preserve the building, approving any material alterations and inserting preservation covenants into the property deed when turning around to resell the school.

While anyone who buys the building from the Commission will determine its use, Morrill said, “Our primary purpose is to preserve the building … The historic man-made environment is what gives us a sense of cultural continuity.”

Photo: Courtesy of Dan Morrill

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