A boarded-up former school building in downtown Bel Air, which also once served as county school headquarters, may finally be on the road to a new life after sitting idle for years.
Harford County officials hope to sell the East Gordon Street property at auction this summer or fall, and officials with the Town of Bel Air want to see it put to commercial or office use.
A resolution was set to be introduced to the Harford County Council at its meeting Tuesday to allow the county to declare the building at 45 E. Gordon St. surplus in preparation for selling it at auction. A public hearing will be held June 3.
Last year, the county put out a request for proposals to redevelop the property, which dates to 1912 and comes with 70 parking spaces, property management chief Erin Schafer said.
They didn't receive any response.
"Since we did not receive anybody, the next best thing was to offer it for auction," Schafer explained Tuesday afternoon.
The property is zoned B-2A, or central business gateway, she said. The building was one of the town's first public school buildings and later served headquarters for Harford County Public Schools from the 1950s until 2006, when the current headquarters opened on South Hickory Avenue.
Bel Air Town Administrator Jim Fielder said he hopes to work with the county on securing a future for the building.
"We have interest in having it preserved in terms of historic structure," Fielder said, noting the town does not own the property. "We are concerned about the whole transaction and what its ultimate use would be."
Fielder said he would like to see the building's exterior preserved.
Ever since the school system moved out of the building eight years ago, there have been ongoing discussions among town and county officials about the property's future, as well as occasional efforts to interest private developers – with little success.
Harford County Executive David Craig convened an advisory board in 2012 to study what can be done with the property, Schafer said.
A report published by the board later that year recommended putting the property up for sale with a deed restriction prohibiting its demolition, Schafer said.
The site was most recently the focus of a tussle over student drop-off at adjacent Bel Air Elementary School, with parents ultimately being allowed to use the building's parking lot to drop off their children in the morning and pick them up at the end of the school day.