A Tucson church is looking to lease a portion of the closed Lyons Elementary School with hopes of one day taking over the entire former east-side campus.
Calvary Christian Fellowship is offering $30,000 a year to rent about one-third of the school, near Escalante and Pantano roads.
For nearly two decades, Calvary Christian Fellowship has rented space from schools for weekly Sunday services and Wednesday night activities at what they describe as “considerable cost.”
“To be effective in serving the local community in which it is situated, Calvary needs more than isolated times in the week to operate,” the church said in a proposal to TUSD.
Existing services include food baskets for families in need, meal delivery for those experiencing sudden loss or hardship, home repair/maintenance, child bible club, youth group, women’s bible study and men’s ministry.
Outreach activities that could be added should Calvary acquire Lyons include a year-round birthday toy drive, assisting victims of domestic violence, youth center, children’s camp, community clean up projects, and community education workshops.
The areas the church would occupy include the administration building, which houses the multipurpose room, library and offices, parking lots, and the park and ground areas.
As part of the proposal, Calvary has asked for the first year of the five-year lease to be rent free to allow it to bring the property up to full operating use and to ensure the building heating, cooling, plumbing and electrical systems are up to standards.
If the church determines there are substantial repairs that it cannot afford within the first 30 days, it could pull out of the deal with no penalty.
In an effort to get neighborhood feedback about the proposal, the Tucson Unified School District is holding a meeting this evening — Thursday, Oct. 29 — from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Santa Rita High School, 3951 S. Pantano Road.
Meanwhile, another closed east-side school — Keen Elementary — is being sought by Penske Truck Leasing.
TUSD refused to disclose how much Penske is offering to purchase the site, which was closed in 2004 because of its proximity to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base’s flight path.
Despite the location, the facility was leased by World Care up until fall 2013, when the humanitarian relief organization was forced to relocate because of water pipe damage and erosion.
For the Julia Keen Neighborhood Association, a large truck leasing facility is not what it envisioned for the site, saying it belongs to the community.
Instead, the residents were hoping for a Julia Keen Community Farm, which would consist of a combination of a commercial farm, including seedling and aquaponic production inside the existing school building, and as many as 350 community garden plots.
The farm would earn income from the sale of produce to local restaurants, food cooperatives and grocery stores, as well as from leasing community plots. It could also provide food to TUSD as part of a lease offset, the neighborhood association said.
The farm, according to the association, would be compliant with existing planning and zoning, including the D-M flight zone.
The neighborhood group would also like to use a portion of the building for a commercial kitchen, studio rooms for local artists, crafters and woodworkers, and practice space for musicians.
“We have all seen the ups and downs of the neighborhood, including the closing of the (Julia Keen Elementary School),” the neighborhood association wrote in a letter to the TUSD board. “To many of us, however, it was not only a school, but also a community center, recreational facility, after-school program, and escape from our routine struggle.
“The site can now be used for something other than a parking lot for moving trucks.”
The Keen deal is on hold and the district is evaluating the farm proposal, TUSD’s Planning Services Director Bryant Nodine said on Wednesday.