DENISON, TX -- The Denison City Council voted unanimously Monday night to begin the demolition process of a nearly 100-year-old building.
City Council members agree the old elementary school on Sears St. is a public nuisance and a hazard, but the property owner disagrees. He says with time and financial help the old school can be turned into a safe place the entire community can enjoy.
The old red brick building, built in 1917, was once the Denison Ward School, but the old elementary school might not be standing much longer after the city council voted to demolish it Monday night. Mayor Jared Johnson says the building is a danger to the public.
"Falling bricks, broken glass. It's just time to deal with this issue," Johnson said.
However, property owner James Roa says those are just small issues that can be fixed.
"It's an awesome building, a fortress. It's all made out of concrete and concrete lasts for thousands of years. So structurally this building is in sound condition," Roa said.
Johnson says Roa can save the building by getting it up to standard before demolition actually begins.
"If he's able to do that then we could delay or forego the demolition, but we got to get it up to those standards," Johnson said.
Some of those standards include fixing the broken glass windows and the falling brick.
Roa says he plans to find the money to fix those issues, and then with the community's support hopes to turn this old school into a castle.
"It could be made to look beautiful. It would be like the ugly duckling turning into the beautiful swan," Roa said.
He would name it The Benjamin Franklin Castle, a multicultural center and chess academy.
"This would be a good place to have lectures, classes on nutrition, health and many other things that Benjamin Franklin was interested in," Roa said.
Roa says it could potentially bring in a lot of money to the local economy by hosting state and national chess tournaments. Johnson says he thinks it is a unique idea, and hopes Roa can turn his dream into a reality.
"As far as our ability to participate with him on an financial arrangement or joint venture and stuff that's just not a situation the city's in. We're going to prioritize our needs and that's not something that would be very high on our list," Johnson said.
Roa hopes the community will help him save the historic building before demolition begins in the near term. If you are interested in donating to the cause you can email Roa at firstname.lastname@example.org.