Historic Old Mel Hi

We suggest a sound, common sense course of action for
the City of Melbourne and Brevard County School Board
-- before it's too late!

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Update revised May 17, 2015 at 1:25 pm

We urgently recommend...

All parties convene in an open-to-the-public discussion, which should include city council, school board, Neil Levine, Exec. Director, Brevard Cultural Alliance, representatives from the historical organizations and other theatre organizations in addition to representatives from Brevard Regional Arts Group/Henegar Center, with following objectives:

1) Stop demolition process of Old Mel Hi right now, in order to allow proceeding with following:

2) Secure a full independent feasibility study to determine costs and long term financial and cultural benefits of optional uses of a restored historical Old Mel Hi, including a cultural center or arts and cultural center.

3) Map a route to a sustainable future for Henegar Center, also -- but not at expense of demolishing the cultural asset that is historic Old Mel Hi.

4) Establish an independent Citizen Support Organization, a Friends of Melbourne CulturalCenter to begin immediately building long term public support.


To dispose of historic Old Mel Hi before full feasibility study is completed, reviewed and considered transparently and openly, is negligent and short-sighted, and cheats the public out of a great cultural and economic resource.


The real tragedy is all city council or school board members say they wish they could save Old Mel Hi but little has been done to move in that direction.

Ultimately, what happens to historic Old Mel Hi is up to our community -- or should be.

Old Mel Hi is recognized as an architecturally significant historical building, a valuable public asset. Buildings like this cannot be built today; It is irreplaceable.

Historic Old Mel Hi is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places and is one of Eleven Most Endangered Historic Sites in Florida.

For Benefits of Historical Preservation and Success Stories, see item 23 on Full Story, or click here.

A well-managed vibrant cultural center (or arts and cultural center) at Old Mel Hi would be a 'win-win' for all, Henegar and Melbourne included.

For beneficial financial impact of arts and cultural affairs, see impressive Brevard Cultural Alliance report:

Courtesy of Brevard Cultural Alliance


Responding to Florida Today

First: as John Emery has suggested, we must say THANK YOU to Florida Today for their news coverage -- as sparse and incomplete as it has been -- and thank you, Mr. Reed, for your 'thought-provoking editorial -- despite glaring omissions!


Our response to Matt Reed opinion column of May 10:
'Not so fast on Mel Hi's razing'

Published in Florida Today, Sunday, May 17, 2015.
Written by Spence Guerin with contributing by Cameron Donaldson, John Emery, Bob Gross, Larry Hughes, Joanie Holzer Schirm, and Karen Raley.



Tragically, Matt Reed opinion column of May 10 says tear it down...

Matt Reed: 'The case for wrecking 'Old Mel High'
Florida Today Opinion editorial
Sunday, May 10, 2015



Matt Reed's serious omissions

1. At this time in history, we know arts and culture provide economic stimulus to downtown regions across the country. (Has Matt Reed forgotten his discussionwith Neil Levine, Brevard Cultural Alliance, who has authored papers on this specific topic?)
See http://www.artsbrevard.org/us/economic-contributions-study-2015

2. Yet, there has never been a feasibility study to determine long range financial and cultural benefits  of arts and cultural center in Old Mel Hi -- benefiting Henegar Center AND Melbourne region. This is a serious short-sighted failure in City leadership -- and Henegar leadership -- and a serious omission in Mr. Reed's column.

3. Shouldn't we know the costs and long term benefits -- financial and cultural -- of a cultural center in downtown Melbourne, with an aret center utilizing the grand old high school building, next door to the Henegar Center? -- BEFORE building an apartment building that can be built elsewhere?

4. As of March 17, 2015, not even Melbourne's own Historic Preservation Board has had an opportunity to discuss their concerns to the city council.

5. Historian Bob Gross: Of all historical structures, historic schools are specially qualified for state and federal grants, especially for those who qualify for for the National Register of Historic Places as this one does.

6. The Zimmerman apartment building with retail shops can be built elsewhere, obviously.

7. There is a great opportunity to create a culture center or arts and culture center, in downtown Melbourne -- which would create a cultural magnet to bring visitors to downtown -- providing arts and culture stimulus that such places are known to provide.

8. Mr. Reed entirely overlooks the value of arts and culture long range benefits to downtown -- most unfortunate. THUMBS DOWN.

9. THUMBS DOWN to Mr. Reed for never disclosing that NO feasibility study has ever been done to determine long range benefits of other uses for Old Mel Hi -- a critical shortcoming.

10. THUMBS UP to Melbourne Downtown Main Street for saying in April 14, 2015 they want artists 'to help transform Downtown into a wonderful art Mecca!' Great opportunity to do that with an arts and cultural center! We hope Melbourne Main Street is serious about this!


In February, Florida Today writer John Torres wrote:

'Keep old Mel High a public space'

So, really, the question is how much is public space worth?

It looks like the Brevard County School Board and others interested in turning the old Melbourne High School into condominiums want to put that number at somewhere between $50,000 and $400,000. I don’t know if that’s right, though it seems low to me when I think about the time I’ve spent in publicly-run museums, art galleries, zoos, aquariums, libraries or theaters. ...

... “Shouldn't we know the costs and benefits of a cultural center in downtown Melbourne, with an art center utilizing the grand old high school building, next door to the Henegar Center of Performing Arts?” he writes on his Web site. [oldmelhi.coml]

But the point that resonates loudest is that Zimmerman or any other developer can put up an apartment building anywhere.

So, why choose a spot that is specifically tied to a clause saying it should be used for public purposes?



Update May 8, 2015

Old Mel Hi one of 'Florida's Eleven Most Endangered Historic Sites for 2015'

Historic Old Mel Hi is officially determined to be an architecturally and historically significant public asset! Old Mel Hi is also eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

To increase public awareness of the urgent need to save Florida’s neglected or threatened historic resources, the endangered list is created annually by the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation.

The announcement was to be made at the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation Annual Statewide Preservation Conference in Miami on Thursday, May 7, by Anne Peery, Executive Director.

Three historically significant sites in Brevard County are on the 2015 endangered list:
- Old Mel Hi
- Green Gables house in Melbourne
- Elliot Plantation in north Merritt Island


Florida Trust for Historic Preservation

Florida Today news story: Two Brevard buildings among Florida's most threatened
The article is a brief, as usual but....
click here


What people are saying about Old Mel Hi being on Most Endangered List

Karen Raley, local historian, May 8, 2015: I’m delighted to learn that the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation has named Old Melbourne High School as one of this year’s eleven Most Endangered Historic Sites in the state.  If this community icon and the public land it sits on is lost to private development, it will be a foolish and grievous waste. This edifice is part of the identity and history of our city. It is easily the largest, most visible, most recognizable, centrally-located, and unspoiled structure of the 1920s Florida Boom period in our area. Indeed, it is as emblematic of Melbourne as any other structure in the city. We are fortunate that it is also sound both architecturally and structurally. Old Melbourne High School not only has public meaning, it also has public support and interest.  In the past, grants have been awarded to restore it to be used as a resource for the arts.  A fund drive raised over $8,000 from individual private donations toward this aim. The people of Melbourne should be able to keep our historic school and its campus as a public resource.  City and county governments have so far failed to recognize either the need or the potential for the best use of this treasure and its campus. I salute Florida Trust for Historic Preservation  for honoring my hometown and having the vision and wisdom to choose Old Melbourne High School as one of this year’s Most Endangered Historic Sites.


Patty Goffinett, enlightened homeowner, Melbourne, May 8, 2015: Melbourne never had many old buildings because there just weren't a lot of people living here. Most of our original buildings have fallen with fires, termites and bulldozers. Old buildings are a very rare here. Buildings that were built to last, like the old high school, are even rarer. 

Our last old buildings are clustered in the original neighborhoods, like Downtown Melbourne. People flock to Downtown because it has a comfortable, lived-in feel that you can't get with newer construction. Restaurants and shops have boomed in Downtown, even through the recent recession. Demolish the old buildings in Downtown and it will become like every other place. The history and feel that bring people here now will be gone. 

See Comments page for more.


Will 'Most Endangered Historic Site' designation help save Old Mel Hi?

Slim chance -- UNLESS there should suddenly be a huge public outcry to shock Henegar leadership and City of Melbourne officials and the developer who may have all he needs to now proceed with teardown of the historic building.

Or, if Melbourne Main Street is serious about newly announced desire to turn 'Downtown into a wonderful art Mecca' then they'd better act fast! Old Mel Hi is strategically situated for that! Click here.

Or, perhaps if somebody should suddenly appear with money for common sense feasibility studies -- which City leadership has yet to support. (Note: Feasibility study requires $50,000 and about 3 months. We never had a 'timeout' from City of Melbourne, Henegar Center, or Brevard School Board to permit time for such an obviously appropriate study.)


Our position remains unchanged: Save + reuse this public asset

The historic Old Mel Hi building is a public asset that should be saved and reused for public benefit -- as specified in public school documents.

The People and The Public Interest are being cheated out of a great public resource, especially if it's for an apartment building that can be built elsewhere.

City of Melbourne and the region would benefit greatly by establishing a cultural center of some kind -- including an arts and culture center -- in a restored and repurposed Old Mel Hi. Henegar Center would also benefit greatly. A proper feasibility study should be done to determine long range benefits, both financial and cultrually. This common sense study has never been done! See Full Story, item 6.

At a time when we know the cultural arts are providing stimulus to other cities across the country, The City of Melbourne and the Brevard Regional Arts Group/Henegar Center, is losing an opportunity to benefit from having a cultural center next door. Efforts were made to convince Henegar leadership that saving Old Mel Hi would be a win-win for Henegar.

Frequent references to cost studies have been made. Casey Gilbert, outgoing Executive Director, Melbourne Main Street was asked on April 2, 2015: 'Have you ever seen any feasibility study that considered long range benefits to the city of a revised old Mel Hi as a culutrual center or similar?' Her answer: 'I have not seen' any such study.

Old Mel Hi is architecturally significant and is not 'an eyesore,' as stated by Melbourne City Manager McNeese in his presentation to the Brevard County School Board on January 27, 2015.

Old Mel Hi has genuine cultural and historic value, even though School Board member Andy Ziegler said 'that building is worth zero,' on January 27, 2015, as he made his arguement for giving the developer a good deal.

Old Mel Hi did NOT sit empty for 50 years, as falsely claimed by Henegar Director Wendy Brandon, on Channel 13 News March 5, 2015. Wendy Brandon also made the adbsurd statement that this is 'the only location that makes any sense for multi-family residents.' There is vacant land downtown ideally suited to apartment buildings and retail outlets.


Melbourne's Historic Preservation Board

At a meeting of this board on March 17, 2015, the board members were asked 'How many of you would like to see the historic Old Mel Hi building be saved for public reuse.' Almost all indicated yes, they did want to see that happen. They were then asked: 'Have you had an opportunity to so advise the city council? The response: 'No.'

Not even Melbourne's own Historic Preservation Board has had an opportunity to discuss their concerns to the city council.


Recording relevant history

For the record, we are documenting the history of this attempt to save historically significant Old Mel Hi. If YOU have relevant info to add, or personal comments, please contact spence@oldmelhi.com


Update March 11, 2015 at 5:30pm



Unfortunately, last night, March 10, 2015, the school board voted 5-0 to sell its interest in the famed 'reverter clause' which provided for ownership reversion to school board in event the building should be used for other than public use. Also, if the building went unused for ten years, the building was to revert back to the school board. 

On March 5, Wendy Brandon, director of Henegar, said on TV news the building had not been used for 50 years -- which was absolutely false. South Brevard Historical Society had been operating a history museum in old Mel Hi for seven years ending 1984, when they were suddenly made to move out. 

Nonetheless, the building has been UNused for more than twenty years, except for Henegar theatre storage space, which means the school board could have exercised the reverter clause long ago.

The school board could have elected to exercise the reverter clause last night, but did not discuss that all-powerful option.

The item was removed from Consent Agenda (where it could have been approved with no discussion) upon the evening's 2nd request by school board member Karen Henderson, which therefore required discussion of the issue.

We believe the school board did not know the value of the reverter clause -- it’s not likely that anything would be built with a reverter clause in place, thus they could have demanded a higher price. Or, following reversion to school board, put it out for bid! No appraisal was done, and there remained only a single-bid developer involved -- with some in a big hurry to close this up. And, of course, there was no inclination to consider other uses of the historic old building. 

Though the school board had wanted $400,000, they settled for $100,000 in cash payment from B.R.A.G. and $500,000 art education endowment. 

To the school board's credit, the board determined that Brevard Public Schools, instead of BRAG, should rightly administer the art endowment funds. Chair Amy Kneesy cited an example of a Henegar art program being deficient when compared to a similar school art program. Details concerning the proposed endowment fund were so minimal that it was said (Karen Henderson?) third graders supplied more detail on their school projects -- and more detail was certainly required, she said. 

Yet, some board members, especially Mr. Ziegler, seemed intent on finalizing reverter clause decision without further delay. So, details of endowment were left 'to be determined' -- without any deadline.

Additionally, the City of Melbourne is to pay $50,000 for removal of reverter clause on another part of the property, perhaps some parking area.


We know that many emails went to school board and city council members. Nonetheless, we failed to rally enough public support to force the 'time-out' that could have given us time to develop other options -- public turnout was weak. We had seven speakers on our side last night. We do not yet know what happens next, and we are considering our options.

Notice: This is not yet finished!


Update March 9, 2015 at 2:50pm

Stand up for public reuse of historic old Mel Hi!

Brevard County School Board Meeting
Tuesday, March 10, 2015

2700 Judge Fran Jamieson Way, Melbourne, FL 32940

-->> 4:45pm: sign waving protest outside school board offices

-->> 5:30pm: school board meeting starts, attend + show support

Old Mel Hi is on Consent Agenda

The school board is quietly eliminating rhe reversion clause...


Update March 9, 2015 at 2:05pm

See video:
Dr. Larry Hughes,
former Chair of the Brevard County School Board
Served on the board from 2000-2008.
He discusses the old Mel Hi situation in a short YouTube video.


New Comments

NEW! Offer of free plywood to protect old Mel Hi ground windows -- and no calls ever returned.

Wendy Brandon's blatantly FALSE statement.: old Mel Hi 'hasn't been used for 50 years'

Shame! Shame! Shame! on BRAG, City of Melbourne and Brevard County School Board!

The school board is quietly eliminating the reversion clause...

Property valued at $3 million -- single bid developer to get for $900,000? No wonder he's in a hurry.

Arts + culture provide creative engine for economic growth, a series of studies show


See video:
New York artist and arts activist Mary Bullock, a former Brevard County resident
speaks out about possible loss of the historical old 1926 Melbourne High School building.


Update Feb. 27, 2015 at 8:10am

New Comments

City consultant in 1990: Old Mel Hi is eligible for National Register of Historical Structures

2012 video, last annual event when Henegar was for 'all the arts'

To be replaced by apartment building after sole-bidder sale to developer?

Joanie Holzer Schirm to school board and city: Take your time and study further...


Update Feb. 25, 2015 at 1:35pm

New comments

Old Mel Hi -- the Situation. Where we are and what we need to do

Melbourne City Council asked to support 'time-out'

Citizens Council being formed but needs Melbourne support for 'time-out'...

Doc' Strawbridge opened Henegar... for ALL the arts...says Doc's widow, Phyllis Strawbridge

There's room for arts, cultural groups, history, dance, science etc, says John Emery

School principal against sale of old Mel Hi, but if it's to be sold should go to highest bidder


Update Feb. 19, 2015 at 2:15pm

NEW: 2nd Hearing rescheduled for 5:30pm Tuesday, March 10.

School Board postponed 2nd hearing at request of BRAG (Brevard Regional Arts Group), which was given title to the building by school board. Henegar Center is operated under auspices of BRAG.


Has any feasibility study been done to determine viability of an art center or culture center?
A: Evidently not. Construction cost estimates -- frequently cited -- do NOT comprise a feasibility study.

What's in a feasibility study?
A: Mr. Arthur L. Smith, President of MAI, which performed the financial study of Torpedo Factory Art Center for the City of Alexandria VA, advises that a feasibility study would:
a) estimate costs to create a complete working art center facility
b) estimate expected revenues
c) provide sources of grant funding
d) require 3-4 months to complete, provided there are no zoning issues to be resolved.

What would a proper feasibility study cost?
A: $50,000, according to MAI's Mr. Smith.
See Full Story

Isn't there support for art center or cultural center reuse of old Mel Hi?
A: Yes, but...we do not yet have sufficient informed public support and we're about out of time. This issue has been brought almost to conclusion basically without public awareness, discussion or input, with NO public hearing at City of Melbourne, NO serious mention of alternatives in local newspaper Florida Today. Leadership at City of Melbourne is pretty much business oriented, and that's it.

I support public re-use of the old Mel Hi building. Is there anything I can do?
A: Contact MelbourneCity Council and School Board members and ask, again, for a delay to allow complete proper feasibility study for reuse as art center and/or cultural center, before selling this valuable public asset -- it IS an asset, and not a burden as the pro-development people portray it.
See contacts

What's in a feasibility study?
A: Not only costs of rehab and all that's required to establish, but also long term financial benefits to see how it balances out, and sources for grants funding. It is clear that such a study has NEVER been done for old Mel Hi.
See item 15 on Full Story

How about Letters to Editor?
A: By all means, send to: letters@floridatoday.com -- but please don't stop there, we cannot rely on Florida Today, as you know.

Why doesn't the developer build elsewhere?
A: I was advised the developer doesn't want to build elsewhere -- he's probably saving $$ by feeding at this public trough, and about now he's really liking his odds.

How can public school property be sold to one buyer with no public discussion or open bid process?
A: Please ask City of Melbourne and the Brevard County School Board.
See contacts

Is this the end of it?
A: Just about but not quite. In the City of Melbourne administration there is some 'off-camera' support for alternative but it is not enough at this point. Any turn around would require lots of phone calls, fast.
See contacts


Many new comments support call for 'time-out' and public re-use

Cultural Center could include... please scroll down this page.



The old Melbourne High School building in downtown Melbourne may be sold and torn down for an apartment building.

NEW! The Brevard County School Board will consider 'highest and best offer' at 2nd of 2 public meetings postponed to 5:30pm Tuesday, March, 2015.

We believe old Melbourne High School should be re-purposed for the public and not torn down for just another apartment building which could be built elsewhere.

The City of Melbourne supports the sale and subsequent building of the apartments with ground floor retail -- which, by the way, could be built elsewhere.

Once the old building is gone, all possibility of a better use of that spot -- which remains subject to public use -- is gone, too.

We believe Melbourne and the Brevard County School Board should call a 'time-out for a few months, and…

a PROPER FEASIBILITY STUDY should be accomplished, to determine whether or not it is feasible (or not) to establish an art center in the old Mel Hi building.

Shouldn't we learn the costs AND long term benefits before tearing down the building?

Shouldn't we know the costs AND benefits of a cultural center in downtown Melbourne, with an art center utilizing the grand old high school building, next door to the Henegar Center of Performing Arts? (What an asset that would be!)

LET'S FIND OUT long term financial and cultural benefit to City of Melbourne before the building is gone and it is too late!

It is not enough to say 'it costs too much' without full and proper feasibility study.

FEASIBILITY STUDY RESULTS should be considered openly and transparently and not behind closed doors, so we can all know what should happen with the old building.

ACTION: please contact School Board and City Council, ask them to halt contemplated sale of old Mel Hi until a current and proper feasibility study can fully evaluate the possibilities.

Art Center and/or Cultural Center?
An inclusive cultural center could contain not only the visual arts, but Melbourne history, Caribbean, African-American, Indian, Hispanic, Latin and South American, Greek, Jewish community elements -- for a true cultural center representative of our culturally diverse growing community.



How to contact School Board and City Council: Contacts.

Feasibility study, benefits to City of Melbourne and more: Full Info.

Sample email message to send, copy and paste and rewrite: Sample

What people are saying: Comments

Facebook: Save Old Mel Hi

Twitter hashtag: #SaveOldMelHi

Have something to say? Please send it to: spence@oldmelhi.com

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