Knox Mayor Wants to Sell AJ Building

Knoxville (WVLT) - A large part of Downtown Knoxville's history may soon be up for sale.

The Andrew Johnson Building began as the Andrew Johnson Hotel in 1930.

These days, it belongs to the Knox County government and houses the board of education.

Now, Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale is proposing the building be sold.

With the residential housing boom in Downtown Knoxville, leaders are thinking that the timing is right to sell the Andrew Johnson Building. The building might command a greater price than at any time in recent memory.

“There's a great increase in the interest in Downtown real estate, so it doesn't surprise me the AJ is being considered. It’s a beautiful little building,” Knoxville Developer Wayne Blasius says.

School Board Member Robert Bratton is upbeat about the possibilities. “I kind of think it’s a no-brainer. You know, if you can sell the building and you can help revitalize Downtown Knoxville, make money on it, you ought to sell it.”

Another school of thought is what might happen to the building if it does sell.

“Certainly the Andrew Johnson has a history with it and i think that we need to preserve that history instead of using it, sell it. Who knows what's going to happen to it,” says trust specialist Sharon Kocuba.

What kind of price time do you put on such history?

“Well there may be an appraised value somewhere, but the fact of the matter, we think it can earn higher than the appraised value,” says Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale.

The mayor proposes using sale proceeds to first, relocate the central office staff and second, use all remaining money to build new schools.

“I think we can put the board of education in more appropriate facilities and at the same time return this very important piece of Downtown Knoxville property to the tax roles and I think that’s win-win for Knox County,” Mayor Ragsdale says.

Win-win sounds great, but if so, will those dollars remain in the school budget.

“Just not a doubt in my mind. The mayor and the commission on many occasions have told us if we surplus property its going to stay in our budget. They have always done that,” says Bratton.

Thoughts of selling this piece of Downtown history are just beginning, and we will continue to follow this story for you.

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