City puts price tag on Montopolis School, landowner plans to challenge

- The fate of the old Montopolis School has been an ongoing process for more than three years.

“Mr. Stowell in March of 2015 paid $262,500 for this property, yesterday the special commissioners decided to award him $464,000,” said Dr. Fred McGhee, archaeologist and founding president of the Montopolis Neighborhood Association.

KEEP Real Estate developer Austin Stowell got a lot of backlash, with accusations of gentrification, when he bought it and tried to rezone the land for development.

“My original goal was to develop the site, redevelop a building that has sat vacant for the last 35 years as part of a master development of the site. The city decided to turn it into a museum and we're glad to do that, but the challenge is establishing what the fair market value is, and what the city offered is clearly not the fair market value,” said Stowell.

Stowell wants to sell the property to the city, but he thinks $464,000 is not going to make the cut.

“We hired an independent appraiser, the section of the land the city is condemning would be a little more than two times what the city has offered,” said Stowell.

“He's making money at taxpayer expense, not just a little bit of money. He's realizing a 95-96 percent rate of profit. I think there are a lot of people in Austin who would like to make $260,000 within three and a half years,” said McGhee.

City attorneys tell FOX 7 Austin, they hired their own appraiser, they set the firm price of $464,000, and since Stowell refused their offers, they have started the eminent domain process.

“The next step in that process is to appeal that value,” said Stowell.

The site is dear to many in the Montopolis neighborhood. It served as a school for African-American children between 1935 and 1962. 

“We want to do a museum, a cultural center, and a tourist attraction,” said McGhee.

But those plans are now on hold, until the city and Stowell can come to an agreement. “It's unfortunate but he's within his rights to pursue a legal remedy. We will see him in court,” said McGhee.

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