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THANKS to the many people who are contributing content to these remarks.


May 15, 2015 by Cameron Donaldson

Melbourne 'leadership' is 50 years behind

Ironically, here in Weston at Florida Communities of Excellence event presenting awards to highest performing and most innovative communities across the state. Just came out of panel session with leading developers including Lennar Homes, Pulte Homes, international real estate developers out of Miami & more. Leading trends and projected for next decade: walkable communities that combine cultural amenities, hospitality and tech. This is particularly important for high rise urban core communities targeting millenials! Melbourne is damn dumb. We keep giving away and destroying what other communities want to have! Zimmerman developer should have been here to get an education. Melbourne "leadership" is 50 years behind.


May 11, 2015 10:38pm by John Emery

Email sent to Brevard County School Board Members

Dear School Board member:

I'm not a lawyer, but the logic of this whole process defies my understanding (as it does for much of the concerned public).....

Old Mel Hi is a SCHOOL  building.  It is not an out-parcel of land, a shed, or some school storage/utility unit.  It is a school building which to this day looks exactly like a school building.  The public driving by daily knows what it was and what it represents.  No amount of denying ownership to this will hold water in public opinion, especially with the reverter clause being so much a part of all this.

What precisely is a reverter clause and why is it placed into a deed and why is it sooo valuable (and integral to this current Zimmerman deal)?  How was this particular reverter clause worded between the school board and BRAG ?

Isn't a reverter clause worded to mean that if "x" isn't met than the property comes back to the original owner?  This means, in essence, that in this case the school board does yet have an ownership interest in the old Mel Hi building (despite protests by the school board to the opposite) , because if BRAG did not meet its obligation to USE this building for "public use" it would "revert" back to the school board, and the school board then alone would  determine its future.

MORE directly, since BRAG has made it clear it would rather tear down this building than use it for public use, it has lost all credibility to ownership and the school board should take  ownership back now.  This is the very moment, the very reason, the reverter clause was likely placed into the deed to begin with.....

Today, by voting to sell this "reverter clause" the school board is by the very nature of this process admitting this has very REAL $$$ value - PUBLIC value.  A value that could very well benefit Brevard County schools MUCH more if the school board exercised its own proper fiduciary concerns/rights within the "reverter clause" - took full deed back once again to the property and sold it on its own.....

John C Emery Sr, is a stained glass artist and past President of Strawbridge Art League
Preston Studios: http://www.prestonstudios.com




May 13, 2015 at 12:14am, by John Craig
John@School Board Office

Subject: Re: SAVE OLD MEL HI 13 May 15

Mr Emery,

The reverter clause is for the entire property.  We cannot invoke the clause on a portion of the property. I researched this at length and tried to find a way to do just that. The clause is on the property, not the buildings. The legal owner (title holder) can do what they want with the buildings which lead to the Board's assessment of the BRAG proposal. We could negotiate a fair return for the release of the reverter or we could do nothing, let the owner (BRAG) knock the building down (their next option) and receive nothing in return.

There is legal precedent for sale of a reverter clause. There is no precedent for attempting to reclaim portions of a piece of property using the legalities of said clause.  The reverter clause in this case is valuable because this particular developer cannot get financing with it attached. If a separate entity with cash offered BRAG an acceptable amount ( to them), they could sell it and basically ignore the reverter clause since there is precedent for economic development (this is in a CRA) meeting the definition of public purpose. BPS could sue but with very little chance of success as there is strong Florida precedent that supports economic development as public purpose.  And to answer your question about what a reverter is meant to do - through research and consult with the law, reverters are placed to give the holder recourse if the owner walks away from the property (bankruptcy, dissolution etc). It is meant to provide a conveyance in the cases where there is no longer a clear owner.

I realize this is not what you want to hear, but for my part, the due diligence is thorough and this agreement provides at least some benefit to our current and future students. And we hold the reverter clause on the rest of the BRAG owned property.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have further questions.


John Craig




May 13, 2015 at 7:37am by John C. Emery

Subject: Re: SAVE OLD MEL HI 13 May 15

John Craig,

Thanks for the update and clarification.... these fine legal lines are (obviously) not known by the public and present a PR/educational issue - perhaps in itself "a teaching moment"...;-)))

Sad to hear that the building itself does not receive any legal protection with said "reverter clause."  This parsing was very likely as misunderstood when this was drawn up as it is today...

Thanks again for your time -

John C Emery Sr


May 12, 2015, by Larry Hughes

To the Brevard County School Board

Madam Chairman and Board Members:
It is well documented that a robust art community fosters economic development. Melbourne took a big hit this week when we lost a major arts program, the Runaway Country music festival. Don’t compound this injury with selling the Old Mel High for for-profit development without fully exploring all alternatives.
As you know, the Old Mel High has been named as one of the 11 most endangered historical places in Florida by the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation. This high profile distinction means your decision regarding the potential conversion of this property from public use to private for-profit use will be of high profile locally and through the State. As such, your decision and the consequences of that decision will follow you in your future endeavors.
Do the right thing for the community, for the students, and, ultimately, for yourselves. Exercise the right to return the property to the School District in accordance with the contractual provisions, solicit and listen to public input, get a cost/benefit analysis for the options available to you, and then reach a considered decision.
Thank you.

Larry E. Hughes, Ph.D. (ABD), a School Board Member, Brevard Public Schools, 2000-2008

May 11, 2015 by Sandra D. Keeley

A Letter to the Editor, Florida Today

Dear Editor,

As a 74-year old who graduated from the Henegar School(s), I follow the proposed transformation of  school property into an apartment complex with concern.  Trading away the historic and future value of the building for yet another apartment complex is perplexing.  

That the building could acquire Historic Preservation status would enable eligibility for Federal and other cultural/arts grants. Grants enable innovative programs and use of the building for ALL of us to explore for years to come. 

Art Centers play a significant role in attracting visitors. What’s to do after time on the beach?  Why not explore the Art Center?  And then, walk down town and visit the shops and restaurants.
After many years, it seems the public energy is there to restore some Melbourne history that promises to benefit the future of the town as a whole (not just a limited number of new apartment dwellers and the complex owners) 

Melbourne has fishing (yay), surfing (yay), a university (yay) and high tech (yay).  Why not grow a bit more and WELCOME rather than mute the voices that wish to transform the Henegar School into a culturally innovative space? 

Sandra D. Keeley is a graduate of Old Mel Hi and lives in Hillside, Colorado


NUMEROUS ONLINE RESPONSES were made to Matt Reed's Opinion column May 10, 2015, we've selected a few

May 11, 2015, by Scott Ellis, Brevard County Clerk of Courts

I don't show the School Board has even surveyed and subdivided the property. I could be wrong, but where are the new property lines to be? Why is no auction taking place if the property is being declared surplus. If Zimmerman has such a great plan he'll surely be the high bidder. Melbourne has a heckuva land development track record, Brownie, witness the Melbourne Technology Center (lawsuits and obliterated the Land Yacht Harbor Airstream Park), the crazy Lofts project downtown, the Shooters scam along the river, swampland out past I-95, the ballpark on a few acres designed to absorb all the non-existent parking spaces. I know the battle here is save versus sell, but one gets tired of all the insider dealing on land with local government.


May 11, 2015, by Kent Chapman

Matt Reed - columnist , a real legal issue exist. You cannot give away public land except to another public enity (BPS deeding to the county is legal). The county over steps its legal authority in deeding the property to BRAG. BRAG is not a public enity. It defaults back to BPS as per the reverter clause. BPS is the owner of the property because all provisions in the reverter clause were not meet.
That is why they are asking BPS to release all provisions to the title. BRAG cannot get a CLEAR TITLE to the property to sell it, because they do not own it.


May 10, 2015, Alan Brech, Brevard County Historical Commission

Re: Matt Reed's editorial

Post 1: A good point from Ms. Chase: the editorial makes it seem like people who love historical resources and historical preservation are just over-sentimental dreamers living in the past. In fact, it has been established by State and Federal legislation and by numerous court decisions at all levels, that historical resources constitute our shared (and publicly-owned) cultural HERITAGE. People who don't care about their heritage are the ones who need an attitude adjustment, perhaps a "funeral" for their shallowness. The only flaw on the historical preservationist side of the debate is that we're not forceful enough. Reed's editorial was that of a very shallow man. RETRACT IT, now that you know better!

Post 2: What a horrible, unbalanced editorial! No quotations or information from the preservationist side?! No mention ever -- in any Today issue -- that historical "resources" have been repeatedly determined by the Courts to be non-renewable, publicly owned, and a legitimate object (and duty) of the "police power" of government? BTW, has your Editorial Advisory Board got anyone on it who is a historical preservationist? Terrible job Reed, absolutely terrible.
--AB, Chairman, Brevard County Historical Commission

Post 3: Reed, I asked you if your editorial advisory board has anyone with a background in (or deep love of) historical resources. Could you please answer that simple and quite relevant question?

Alan Brech is a member of Brevard County Historical Commission


May 10, 2015, by Cameron Donaldson

Entrepreneurs analyze a situation and pursue ways to make it happen

This whole discussion about money needs to be turned around. Where is Brevard’s entrepreneurial spirit?? Entrepreneurs don’t whine that they can’t do something because of the cost and give up. They analyze the potential and if it’s there, they pursue every avenue to make it happen. Why is all the energy and imagination in this community limited to electronics? GAH!


May 10, 2015, by John Emery

History, BRAG (Brevard Regional Arts Group), Henegar, Old Mel Hi, and Strawbridge Art League (SAL)

#1 What is vitally important is to recount a little history (short as possible)....Doc Strawbridge did NOT have $$$millions to open Henegar Center for the Arts. He himself, along with his “over-the-hill-gang” went in and shoveled bat guano out of the theater at Henegar. It was opened with volunteer labor, and donations by various contractors (I am not exactly sure of the data on this -- if anyone has it, it could be VERY illuminating -– especially since Henegar management uses this $2.3 million figure spent to get Henegar going. That is what has been spent in all of the years it's been open and part of that figure is not cash spent -– it is in-kind donation values.  Kathy Kett over at Melbourne Civic Theater, who used to manage Henegar would be a great resource for such data)....


#2 Somewhere in there, if room allows (and it may not), a single sentence or two referencing Henegar Director’s background in real estate speculation/management might be useful.


Be sure to point out that the Strawbridge Art League (SAL) was formed (by Doc Strawbridge’s widow, Phyllis Strawbridge) explicitly to be IN that building. That over 13+ years SAL proved that the Torpedo Factory (in Alexandria, Virginia) formula works here in on the Space Coast by paying Henegar $1,000 per month for space upstairs at Henegar Center for the privilege of conducting visual arts programming inside Henegar Center. To do that SAL subleased 4 working art studios to help pay rent. In toto, over more than 10 years SAL paid BRAG over $100,000 in rent (that is, VISUAL ARTISTS resident here paid that).
In all those years John Emery, President of SAL twice, was only allowed in the old Mel Hi building ONCE on a tour. Not EVER was the art league asked to participate in any fundraiser for the building by BRAG.....


BRAG is the name of the organization which owns both buildings. It’s name is BREVARD REGIONAL ARTS GROUP. That “s” on the end of “art” is essential. Henegar was NEVER designed to be ONLY a theater. It was to house equally dance AND the visual arts as well. The Space Coast has older theater institutions aplenty, including Melbourne Civic Theater in downtown Melbourne as well (which opened Henegar center to begin with). BRAG is supposed to be in charge of a multi-cultural institution – not just a theater.

John C. Emery Sr is Vice President Exhibits and Past President, Strawbridge Art League
He is co-owner of Preston Studios, celebrating 38 years of Artistry in Stained Glass

May 10, 2015 by Michael Godfrey

Prime location, rare historical architecture

This sturdy 1926 Old Melbourne High Public School Building has a prime location in the Historic District of Downtown Melbourne. The Old Mel Hi Building also has the rare architectural and historical ‘bones’ to become a Historically Registered Local Civic Landmark that engages and excites many people of all ages for generations to come.  

And, perhaps including the word "civic" and its meaning somewhere into the conversation might bring some more 'energy' to the fine words and thoughts that you (at Team Old Mel Hi) all have so carefully crafted on behalf of everyone.

Michael Godfrey was born and raised in Melbourne, is a Mel Hi grad, and is a retired engineer.


MAY 10, 2015, by Mary Bullock

Old Mel Hi vital to downtown Melbourne 'old Florida flavor'

I lived in the Melbourne area for nine years. I have ten years on NY and CT newspapers, many more in NYC media and advertising. I understand the newspaper and media business. An employee of "journalism light" as practiced by Gannett which describes itself as "a media and marketing solutions company" (marketing solutions? whatever happened to the fourth estate?) Reed cares nothing for the local character of the community he purports cover.

**Downtown Melbourne still has some of that old Florida flavor. But if Mel Hi goes away, anyambiance will soon follow. It will be just another boring new FL town.

**I just completed a book for Rizzoli about an historic house in Staten Island. (See theseguinebook.org orrizzoli.usa.com - Seguine). We fight the same fight here DAILY. Pieces of our past which could blend into and enhance future development are obliterated by short-sighted developers conspiring with local politicians and "journalists" (I use the term here loosely) to line their pockets. This editorial is an outrage. Shame on you Florida TODAY or should I say "Marketing Solutions TODAY."

Mary Bullock is an artist living in New York and a former resident of Brevard County


May 9, 2015 by Linda Behret

Here's a great opportunity...

As the dispute over the fate of Old Mel Hi rages on, I have to wonder why — why tear down this existing and structurally sound building that still has years of useful life? Especially why do it now that the building has been named as as one of this year’s Most Endangered Historic Sites? Why let a historically significant building be torn down when it is part of the fiber of Melbourne? Especially when it can be used for something else. If Melbourne Main Street (MMS) really wants to turn downtown into a wonderful art mecca, as they say, here’s a great opportunity — Old Mel Hi would be a great place to have an arts and cultural center, and, along with the Henegar Center, could be just the place for that effort. So why has nothing been done to accomplish this?

Linda Behret ls past President of Turtle Coast Sierra Club. She is NOT a MelHi grad, by the way.


May 8, 2015 by Karen Raley, local historian

Most Endangered Historic Sites

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.

Karen Raley, local historian, wrote a powerful Letter of Support for Old Mel Hi's application for Most Endangered Historic Sites list. Karen's lletter will be posted soon!


May 8, 2015 by Patty Goffinett

Downtown Melbourne has comfortable, lived-in feel thanks to old buildings

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. 

Patty Goffinett is an enlightened homeowner in Melbourne. She is NOT a MelHi grad, by the way.


May 8, 2015 revised 2:25pm by Spence Guerin

Melbourne Main Street (sigh)

Here's a bit of irony for ya: Melbourne Main Street, on January 27, 2015 at a Brevard County School Board workshop (which was closed to public comment) advocated tear-down of Historic Old Mel Hi for an apartment building that could be built elsewhere -- without having ever seen a proper feasibility study to explore the favored alternatives including an arts and cultural center.

Now, just a few months later, Melbourne Main Street is saying it wants to 'transform Downtown into a wonderful art Mecca!'

Whoa! Gotta love it. Or go absolutely *#+# crazy.

Hurry now, act fast! If Melbourne Main Street is serious, then they ought to jump on this Last Chance for Old Mel Hi as an arts and cultural center! Right now.

At a time in history when arts and cultural activities are known to be providing economic stimulus to downtowns all around the country, Old Mel Hi is still standing -- Not even intentional neglect could bring it down.

There's still a great opportunity to help achieve 'wonderful art Mecca' don'tcha think so?

That possibility would be a greatly enhanced IF an arts and cultural center should happen right there in historic Old Mel Hi! Don'tcha think so? Hello-o-o.

Well, this would be hilarious if it were not so... so.... (sigh)

Perhaps a public hearing on this issue would have helped even Melbourne Main Street re-focus sooner. Sadly, no public hearing on Old Mel Hi ever happened. That's pretty poor. But, here we are.

Jump on this Last Chance for Old Mel Hi before the wrecking ball arrives, Melbourne Main Street!

Either that, or be remembered always, for advocating tear down of this historically significant architectural public asset on one month, and just a few months later advocating for turning downtown into arts mecca, which Old Mel Hi building could have helped stimulate.

Fast now, before it's too late!


April 29, 2015 by Walter Grimsley

Re: The tearing down of Old Melbourne High School

We have been going to downtown Melbourne for about 15 years and always loved the small hometown feel and historical aspect of the area. We always talked about how nice it was to have a piece of old Florida so close and able to enjoy the city and beaches without the overgrowth and high rises as in most coastal areas.
We do not think it a good idea to tear down an historical building just to place a modern high rise. That would definitely not fit in.

Walter and Sid
West Palm Beach


April 15, 2015 by John Emery

Report on School Board Meeting

I did get a chance to get up and speak and commented upon how the visual arts can have such an impact viscerally -– clearly evidenced by the Young Artists Exhibition being held next door, and at one point, since there were still so very many people in the audience, I turned and asked everyone there if they would prefer to see this building be used as a cultural institution rather than see it torn down and they all yelled and clapped in favor of that sentiment.  I could see a reaction in the school board to this.
At one point during the formal discussion of the matter a member of the school board addressed me by name (and thanking me for my emails), explaining that they did not own the building and that those of us concerned with its fate need to address the legal owners (BRAG).   My take on the matter is that the quite lengthy discussion was all about CYA....wanting to be sure the pro forma necessities have all been covered (much like the Melbourne City Council meeting).
However, as expected the inevitable happened and the school board voted unanimously in favor of accepting the $350,000 Brag and $50,000 City of Melbourne offers.  There was some lengthy discussion of what this means and that they will have yet another vote to approve the contract should/when it gets drawn up (many legalese details)....
And according to one school board member (who came over and spoke with me during a short break) - it ALL depends upon whether the developer can get what he wants out of the city....what exactly that means I have no idea (one might think that that had already been achieved and why BRAG was offering the school board the $350,000). He clearly wanted me to get the impression that whatever happens to the building, he personally was not at fault.
I want to thank thank the one other artist who showed up -- Lori Knerick --  for her company and composure over the grueling 3 hour meeting (it was still going on after we left).  This was, evidently, one of the most well attended school board meetings EVER...That was due not only to the children’s entertainment segment at the beginning of the meeting, but also due to the opening and award ceremony for the children’s art exhibit held in the room next door. And then there were about 12 “recognitions” of folks being promoted and/or transferred from one school to another. And a huge contingent of disgruntled teachers and labor union leaders who were unhappy with their pay.  So it was a very very long process.

John C, Emery Sr is Vice President Exhibits and Past President, Strawbridge Art League
He is co-owner of Preston Studios, celebrating 38 years of Artistry in Stained Glass


March 9, 2015 at 11:45am by Mister X

Free offer to help protect old Mel Hi

Sheets of plywood were offered to cover all ground floor windows to protect against damage -- free of charge.

Henegar never returned the calls! Offer of free plywood, and no call back?

If YOU were responsible for maintaining old Mel Hi, and windows were being broken into, wouldn't YOU return calls for free assistance in boarding up all the ground floor windows? That is, if you really wanted to protect the building from deterioration?

Has 'the fox been in charge of the henhouse' for too many years?


March 26, 2015 by Nancy Roberts

Historic old building saved and repurposed in Connecticutt

My home town, Stonington CT, turned the historic elementary school into condos and the Velvet mill into mixed used bakery, rope chandlery, & artist studios.
FYI MURDOCK's Cocoa Village used old COCOA High School bleachers for its deck, Brevard Hotel doors around the bar & some other entity for the ceiling.


March 9, 2015 at 9:15am by Spence Guerin


Channel 13 news March 5, 2015: Wendy Brandon, speaking of old Mel Hi, says it 'hasn't been used for probably 50 years.' Fifty years?

This statement is blatantly FALSE!

South Brevard Historical Society occupied two floors of old Mel Hi for seven years before being made to leave in 1984 -- that's thirty-one years ago, not fifty.

On the newscast, Wendy Brandon also says the old Mel Hi is 'the only location that makes any sense for multi-family residents.'

Absurd! The 'only location that makes any sense for multy-family residents' just happens to be where historic old Mel Hi is located?

Clearly, 'the fox has been in charge of the henhouse' for too many years.


TENANTS REMOVED -- 'Pushed out' says SAL members

With this leadership at BRAG and Henegar Center, is it any wonder that tenants in the Henegar Center and old Mel Hi were moved out? Strawbridge Art League (SAL), South Brevard Historical Society, and Melbourne Civic Theatre were all moved out of the buildings -- SAL was told 'we don't want any more art here' and their rent was doubled. SAL left Henegar just a few years ago -- thereby leaving Wendy Brandon and her theatre group as the sole remaining tenant.

SAL, by the way, was never permitted to move into old Mel Hi and renovate, as they had intended to do for years.

South Brevard Historical Society had established a history museum on the 2nd floor of old Mel Hi building and was there for maybe ten years.

If YOU wanted to save old Mel Hi and build community support, would YOU remove all the tenants from the building?

Clearly, 'the fox has been in charge of the henhouse' for too many years.


SHAME ON Wendy Brandon and Brevard Regional Arts Group (BRAG) and Henegar Center for employing false information to support their intention to sell historic old Mel Hi for benefit of Henegar Center -- for an apartment building that could be built elsewhere -- and, in the process, remove a key part of HISTORICALLY SIGNIFICANT ARCHITECTURE. All for an apartment building that could be built elsewhere.

SHAME ON Melbourne City Council for supporting this scheme, for failure to have a public hearing, and -- during an age when we know full well that art and culture stimulates local economies -- the city does not even consider doing a feasibility study to find other beneficial uses for HISTORICALLY SIGNIFICANT ARCHITECTURE.

SHAME ON Brevard County School Board for not already requiring reversion of ownership back to the school board, due to years of obvious neglected maintenance, and -- apparently -- being poised to approve the destruction of HISTORICALLY SIGNIFICANT ARCHITECTURE.

SHAME ON Brevard County School Board and City of Melbourne for not immediately calling for a halt in these proceedings to consider other beneficial uses of historic old Mel Hi. NO proper feasibility study has ever been done. NO public discussion. Shame! Shame! Shame!


March 9, 2015 at 9am by Spence Guerin
This text is derived from video by Dr. Larry Hughes, former Chair, Brevard Public School, who served on the board 2000-2008.

The School Board + BRAG / Henegar

The school board is quietly eliminating the reversion clause that require property to revert to school board if not used for public use.

Obviously, BRAG / Henegar has failed to meet contractual obligations. If BRAG / Henegar did not want the building, the building should revert to school board for other public uses.

The school board has put this item on Consent Agenda for March 10. This means the reversion clause can be eliminated with NO discussion and NO meaningful public input.

From workshop closed to public comment on January 27, to March 10 Consent Agenda approval for removing 'reversion clause' that protects public interest -- all in six weeks.

Valuable community asset may be dumped for dimes on the dollar. Conservatively valued on the tax rolls at $3 million, a single proposal by one developer without competition may walk away with the property for $600K.

Why the rush to judgment?

Shouldn't the community have time for careful consideration of other options?


March 5, 2015 at 10am by Spence Guerin

City: It's 'out of our hands' / City Manager: old Mel Hi 'is an eyesore'

City of Melbourne people are saying this matter 'is out of our hands.'

The City of Melbourne has been complicit from the outset, with City Manager and Mayor attending the workshop on January 27, and the City Manager stating that the building is an 'eyesore' -- and a new apartment building is a 'public use.'

The City of Melbourne has helped this move to school board with NO public announcement, NO public hearing, NO public review, and NO feasibility study to evaluate long range benefits of other options.

Does that sound like the matter is 'out of their hands?'


March 3, 2015 at 9:45pm by Joanie Holzer Schirm

On Consent Agenda for Brevard School Board, 5:30pm Tuesday, March 10, 2015:
BRAG property value (property appraisal, likely worth more): $2,065,360

City of Melbourne: $903,760.

Total value: $2,969,120 

Value per acre: 5.3 acres ($560,594 per acre)
Developer Sam Zimmerman offering BRAG: $900,000
School Board consent agenda says School Staff recommends they seek value of $400,000.
BRAG offering School: $150,000 cash + endowment of $500,000 for student art programs.
City of Melbourne will pay $50,000 to Brevard Schools to work through issue that allows them to get back their property to use in a way in which it sounds like they might give good deal to developer to allow for the larger development. 
So Developer gets 5.3 acres at a really amazing price…without allowing any other proposals from developers that might offer a better deal for schools, and ultimately for the City of Melbourne. 


Ed. note: If the school board approves above, and historic old Mel Hi is torn down for an apartment building that can be built elsewhere, the City of Melbourne will never even know what possibilities they are passing by, will not have even seriously opened the discussion to other possibilities -- at a time when art and culture are known to be drivers for economic development. Melbourne will be throwing the baby out with the bathwater, with almost NO public discussion.


March 3, 2015 at 3:44pm, by Joanie Holzer Schirm

This relevant discussion comes from California.

re: Struggle between redevelopment and historic preservation

... There will always be a struggle between the desire for new construction and preservation of historic buildings. How would you, as a Council member, address that inherent conflict? Are there special standards that you think an historic property should meet to be spared the wrecking ball? Are there special standards a proposed development should meet if it requires tearing down an historic building?

Candidates for West Hollywood CA city council respond:



March 2, 2015 at 9:32am by Mary Bullock

Regarding arts, culture and economic development
Excerpts compiled by old Mel Hi team

The Creative Engine
How Arts & Culture is Fueling Economic Growth in New York City Neighborhoods

… It is critical that we understand the creative economy as a economic sector, equal to financial services, telecommunications, or manufacturing. Soley in terms of direct employment, the field is a major growth sector that warrants similar assistance and economic-development thinking like any other. With an astonishing 52 percent growth rate over the past nine years (based on a full impact employment analysis in this report), New York's cultural industry is responsible for more than 150,000 jobs. … While analysts foresee continued slow or flat employment growth for financial services, they predict the creative economy will continue growing, almost across the board.



Arts & the Economy / Using Arts and Culture to stimulate state economic development

From Executive Summary:

Arts and culture are important to state economies. Arts and culture-related industries, also known as “creative industries,” provide direct economic benefits to states and communities: They create jobs, attract investments, generate tax revenues, and stimulate local economies through tourism and consumer purchases. These industries also provide an array of other benefits, such as infusing other industries with creative insight for their products and services and preparing workers to participate in the contemporary workforce. In addition, because they enhance quality of life, the arts and culture are an important complement to community development, enriching local amenities and attracting young professionals to an area. …



Inspiring the Creative Economy: How Cities Increase Economic Activity Through Innovation and The Arts

When the concept of creativity is combined with “community,” it evokes images of vibrancy, activity and prosperity. In terms of economic development, how important is California’s creative economy?

Quite important, according to The Otis Report on the Creative Economy, released in late January 2014. The report notes that 7.8 percent of California’s gross state product is directly attributable to the creative industries, with an impact of more than $270 billion annually. The creative economy employs some 1.4 million people, either directly or indirectly. “Those are big numbers,” says Kish Rajan, director of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz). They include more than the obvious arts jobs. Rajan explains, “The creative economy encompasses literally creative activities like art, film and entertainment. And from another perspective, it can include the software, innovation and technology industries that thrive here.”

California’s $100 billion tourism industry also benefits from the creative economy’s appeal. “People are attracted to the creativity and innovation that California is all about,” says Rajan.



Spartanburg SC: Chapman Cultural Center has Economic Impact of $13.5 Million According to New Study November 23, 2009

It's hard to put a price tag on the sound of music, the beauty of a painting or the wonder of science, but according to a new economic impact study, the organizations housed at the Chapman Cultural Center contributed as much as $13.5 million to the Spartanburg economy in the facility's 2008-09 fiscal year, its first full year of operations.



Economic impact of the nonprofit arts & culture industry

Arts & Economic Prosperity IV demonstrates that America's arts industry is not only resilient in times of economic uncertainty, but is also a key component to our nation's economic recovery and future prosperity. Business and elected leaders need not feel that a choice must be made between arts funding and economic prosperity. This study proves that they can choose both. Nationally as well as locally, the arts mean business!



March 1, 2015 at 9:30am by Mary L. Bullock

Art increases real estate value

I was President of the Artist's Forum when we walked out of the Museum and became the Strawbridge Art League, resident at the Henegar Center.  
With mixed feelings I left a job at Northrop Grumman and I moved back to New York City in April 2001 to pursue my art career.  Within two years I was supporting myself entirely on the sale of my paintings.  I've had a show in Manhattan (marylbullock.com) and worked on a coffee-table book coming out from Rizzoli this Spring (theseguinebook.org).  
I've also been active in local community development and historic preservation -- and the one lesson we here in NYC all know: ART INCREASES REAL ESTATE VALUES.
For example, the tall "sliver" residential buildings on 57th Street in Manhattan ($11 million and up for a condo) are marketed as 'close to cultural offerings.'  The land boom in Brooklyn is largely the result of artists moving into Williamsburg.
Greenville SC understood this. To attract global giants like BMW and Michelin they strengthened their art infrastructure.
From what I read about this sale, it looks like a profit to be made -- under shadowy circumstances -- by one developer.  If you keep Old Mel High for the arts, ALL real estate interests will benefit.
Melbourne already has your annual, nationally known art fair, and the Eau Gallie Art District. With Old Mel High as a local "Torpedo Factory" you can build tourism -- and through that the entire community's economy.
Art makes business sense, keep Old Mel High for the arts.


Feb. 27, 2015 at 8am, from a friend of Old Mel Hi

City Consultant: Old Mel Hi is eligible for National Register of Historical Structures

The Henegar center is on the Florida Master Site File (FMSF) ID# BR1238.  It was also recommended for the National Register by Stephen Olausen, the consultant the City of Melbourne hired to perform a historical resource study about 1990 (published report reference FMSF ID# 2978).

We should tell the city council that their own consultant recommended the buildings for the National Register and the High School building in that report. I would also say that the high school even more so now because its exterior has not been altered like the theater has (the front portico).

This building was constructed in 1926 at a cost of $200,000. Builder: W.T. Hadlow and Co. of Jacsonville. Architect: W.M. Christen.

This may be the most significant 1920s boom era public building in our regeion -- certainly the last in the 'public' domain.

This building is NOT an 'eyesore' -- as described by City Manager McNees in his recent presentation to the school board.

Old Mel Hi is historically significant architecture, significant in Melbourne's history, and should be considered a huge asset.

Unquestionably, an advantageous 'public-good' reuse can be found for this building. To not fully consider long range cultural -- and financial -- benefits of retaining this building is extremely short-sighted.


Feb. 26, 2015 at 10:15pm, by John Emery

… for ALL the arts

[Ed. note: This video was made during the time when the Henegar Center was still a multi-use facility -- as it was always intended to be -- and not the single-user it has become. For this reason, we insert this video into the conversation.]

Phyllis Strawbridge, Doc Strawbridge’s widow (who got today’s Henegar Center open), founded the Strawbridge Art League in 1996 in Doc’s memory.  The vision/intent was to have a center for ALL of the arts.  As such the art league worked to fulfill that dream by staging an annual event in the Theater which involved ALL of the arts – dance, music, performances of various kinds, and the visual arts: it is called “VISION.”  Our last such production at Henegar was in 2012 (although we will conduct the 15th such annual juried visual art show by the same name this year in a different venue):
Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ttfUePwDQQ


Feb. 26, 2015 at 9pm, by Brett Pigon
Comments posted on a Facebook page

Old Mel Hi to be replaced by an apartment building after sole bidder sale to developer?

Hello I am a Brevard resident since 1982 and have seen a lot of changes and growth not always for the better. How do you all feel about the plans to tear down the old Melbourne High School to replace with an apartment building after a sole bidder sale to a developer?

Many would like to see the building repurposed as a cultural center, but a lack of vision and money stand in the way. Public support to encourage the Brevard Public School board to not rescind a "public use" clause now in the way of the sale would be very helpful, as well as for people of influence to step up and support a feasibility study to independently study the potential for a cultural center. Please see www.oldmelhi.com for further information on the situation and who to contact. Also see "save old mel hi" in Facebook.


February 26, 2015 at 11:40am, by Joanie Holzer Schirm
Sent to the Brevard County School Board and Melbourne City Council

Please take your time and study further: Old Melbourne High Building - important historic linkage to Melbourne's past
Dear Elected Officials,
My Holzer family first arrived to Melbourne in 1952 where my father, Dr. Oswald “Bubbie” Holzer, became a family doctor and the seventh doctor on the staff at Brevard Hospital. In 1957, he delivered 200 babies and with a little luck, one might have been you. My mother, Ruth Alice “Chick” Holzer was a community activist with a keen interest in local history.   My brother, Tom Holzer (see attached photo) attended high school in the old Melbourne High School building that you hold the fate of in your upcoming deliberation.  My sister, Pat Holzer Holm, and I roamed those same grounds; she in middle and me in elementary school.  
Although I now live in Orlando, I remain intensely interested in the town I still call ‘home’.  My husband and I often visit, most recently last weekend.  My brother, who lives in Palo Alto, CA chose Melbourne, his “old stomping grounds,” to celebrate his recent 70th birthday which included a large family reunion.  Melbourne holds important memories for many of us and sadly, there are few structures that have been preserved to represent the past.  I know this lack of preservation happens in many American towns, often because there is a lack of funding.  I also hope elected officials will make wise choices for the future and sometimes that takes creative thinking once a wide array of facts present themselves.  
I write to ask your support on March 20, 2015 for investment in a feasibility study that would address what might be possible for preservation and use-repositioning for the old Melbourne High School complex.  Old Melbourne High School represents a moment in time to many generations past and to Melbourne’s history.  Please allow for the proper study time to determine what is best for the site, Melbourne and our history.   History matters. What was learned in that building helped create who and what we are today.  I request that you will take some extra time to study preserving our heritage.  You don’t get a second chance and can never get this important building back once it’s destroyed.
Joanie Holzer Schirm, 516 Lakeview Street, Orlando, Florida 32804
Melbourne High School graduate class of 1966

Author: Adventurers Against Their Will –
Extraordinary World War II Stories of Survival, Escape, and Connection – Unlike Any Others

2013 Global Ebook Award Winner: Best Biography
To buy the book, see the book trailer & learn more info: www.joanieschirm.com


Feb. 25, 2015, 1:30pm by Spence Guerin

Old Mel Hi -- the Situation

School Board and Melbourne City Council are basically non-responsive and it's up to us to change that.

In recent years, three user groups were 'manuevered' out of Henegar/Mel Hi buildings: South Brevard Historical Society, Strawbridge Art League, and Melbourne Civic Theatre -- leaving only Henegar theatre group. All had legitimate stake in Henegar/old Mel Hi and invested money (SAL put $100,000 into it over 13-14 years).

Mel Hi Class of 1964 did a fundraising event specifically to benefit old Mel Hi building, raising 'considerable' funds.

The proposed sale of old Mel Hi has been arranged without public awareness-- even arranging for a single buyer instead of 'open to bid' process -- intended to benefit Henegar Center.

There has been almost NO public discourse on this issue -- we need to keep asking for that.

The public is learning about the situation -- we're slowly gaining support, but...

There is a long list of good reuse ideas for old Mel Hi -- for a true cultural center.

No feasibility study was ever done. We need to create time for that before it's too late.

Possible reuse includes all the arts and crafts; dance; cultural groups including Hispanic, African-American, Indian from India, Greek, Asian, Caribbean, Mexican and Central America; historical; children's museum; butterfly museum (a big attraction in Gainesville); natural history and science of Indian River Lagoon + St. John's River; public meeting space for receptions...

We can only guess about long term benefits without a proper feasibility study -- that's why it's needed.

The issue could be decided on March 10 at the school board meeting. The board may decide to sell the public school interest, which is currently protected by 'recusal clause' that mandates 'public use' of the property or it reverts back to school board ownership.

We have less than two weeks to:

1. Mobilize a whole lot more public interest -- a WHOLE lot more -- fast.

2. 'Time-out' is needed to allow public discussion and feasibility study of options.

3. School Board and City needs to be convinced that 'time-out' is in their interest.

4. Game-changer might be coming up with a way to pay for $50,000 feasilbility study.

5. We The People will need to do all the above-- there is no city leadership for it, at present.

6. If We The People don't achieve this, Melbourne loses a great opportunity for enriching the region, far beyond what an apartment building will do.


Feb. 25, 2015, 9:50am by Spence Guerin
Comments to Melbourne City Council to be followed with email today.

Three-minute public comments made to Melbourne City Council on Feb. 24

I'm here to speak about the effort to save old Mel Hi for reuse.

The public has been basically excluded from the conversation.

I would welcome the opportunity for a full presentation on this issue, and not just three minutes.

Link Johsten, the well-known Eau Gallie florist, wants you to know he is 100 percent behind this effort to save old Mel Hi for reuse. He was -- quote -- 'part of the original Doc Strawbridge team that saved the two buildings and look how good that has been for Melbourne.' End quote.

We ask City of Melbourne to support:

1) Call for 'time out' -- stop everything before it's too late to consider options.

2) Support a halt in school board proceedings regarding recusal clause.

3). People are just learning about this issue -- Support time for consideration of options.

4) Support a full and proper feasibility study of options -- this has NOT been done!

By the way, a cost estimate for building repairs is NOT a feasibility study.

5) There has never been public discussion. Why not put this issue on the public agenda?

We have begun to establish a Citizens Council to help find options -- but we need your support for a 'time-out.'

If you continue to support sale of building to proceed, it will be too late to fully consider beneficial options.

We have a long list of options to consider, but in the interest of time I won't list those.

(At this point, Mayor Meehan asked me to 'wrap it up.'

A proper feasibility study is needed, and that requires you to support a 'time-out' for all.

Tell that to the School Board.

All of this information is on our website, oldmelhi.com.

Note: The city council made no comments, asked no questions.


Feb. 25, 2015, 9:45am by Spence Guerin

Cammie Donaldson's public comments at Melbourne City Council Feb. 24

Cammie said the downtown cultural ambiance of Melbourne is important and the promise of that is why she moved into downtown Melbourne.

The old Melbourne High School building is a part of that promise of cultural richness and should be retained and reused.

Note: The city council made no comments, asked no questions.


Feb. 25, 2015, 8:15am by John Emery
Emailed to the Brevard County School Board

Dear School Board Commissioner:
Thanks for letting me speak last night at the School Board meeting. Three minutes go by very quickly and being in the spotlight/under pressure can be daunting in trying to convey an important message succinctly....
What the issue of the old Melbourne High School building is about is not so much celebrating the past, but about preserving the future. There is no other facility on the Space Coast so ultimately suited to the task of providing a professional level home for the living arts community resident here. This means a home not just for theater, but for dance and the visual arts as well.
The Strawbridge Art League (SAL), so named after the man who got this facility open and formed BRAG (Brevard regional Arts Group) -- "Doc" Strawbridge, is well aware that Melbourne, Florida does not have the demographics of Alexandria, Virginia. But we proved after 13 years of renting our space at $1,000 per month and subletting 4 rooms as working art studios that this model -- the Torpedo Factory (Art Center) in Alexandria, DOES work here. And our aim was to manage this on the top floor of the old Mel Hi building. This would leave two other floors for other art/cultural institutions -- dance studios, historic societies, etc...
This dream, "Doc's dream," remains alive in much of the community here today. All it requires is the leadership and a will to make it real. Please do not change the status of the Mel Hi building. It is a public trust unsuited for private profit.
Sincerely yours,
John C Emery Sr
VP Exhibits
Past President
38 years of Artistry in Stained Glass
Making an American Tradition into a World Tradition


Feb. 24, 2015, by Phyllis Strawbridge
Emailed to the Brevard County School Board

My late husband, William G. Strawbridge, “Doc,” and his buddies the “over-the-hill-gang” worked very hard many years ago to get the current Henegar Center open for theatrical performances. But that was not the end of his dream, or mine. We saw this as a “center for the arts” – ALL arts.
Part of my input and dreams were influenced by my family history. My father actually worked in the Torpedo factory in Alexandria, Virginia during WWII helping to produce armaments meant for destruction. Today that same facility is the role model nationally for using such old facilities for constructive creativity. Not only do many artists work at the now called the Torpedo Factory (Art Center) daily in a professional environment, they add a hug boost to the economy of Alexandria, drawing tourists from all over the world. Please refer to www.torpedofactory.org to understand more on this wonderful art center. This is what “Doc” and many others of us foresaw for THIS old abandoned building; a place where artists could have working studios where the public could observe and learn.
So, in 1996 I asked some of my artist friends, in memory of my late husband, to form the now well known Strawbridge Art League. The intent of this organization then was to help create the core group to help open the old Melbourne High School building as a professional arts center, a place where artists could have studios to create world-class art. As I understand it, this organization is still very much alive and interested in this dream today. In fact, in the 1980’s, it was voted on at a Board Meeting of the Henegar Center to name the building the “Doc Strawbridge Building” and that was noted in the minutes of that meeting. The building now in use for theatrical performances was to be referred to as the Peter Feller Building, named for a two-time Tony-Award winner on Broadway who, incidentally, was instrumental in obtaining sets from Broadway productions to be used for performances on stage at the Henegar Building. Together, these two buildings were to be called the Henegar Center, named for the onetime teacher or principal of the old Melbourne High School, at that time.
Please consider this before you vote on changing the status of this facility – it is a space meant for community use, not private profit.  As a side note, these buildings, three initially, were designed and built to be potentially indestructible; either building would make terrific hurricane shelters if ever needed. It cost more to destroy the first building than it did to build it as something else, "Doc" said at the time.


Feb. 24, 2015, by John Emery

Report on 3-minute presentation on Feb. 24 to School Board

Well I did my gig with Doc in tow (the large photo we have of 'Doc' Strawbridge) to the school board.... Not sure what I expected, but stunned silence was not one of them. As I walked out of the room they simply called the next speaker.

I was fortunately preceded by a school principal who mostly spoke of other matters, but ended his 3 minutes talking about the old Mel Hi building, saying he was against the sale, but if it must be sold it should go to the highest bidder and that all funds should go to school arts programming.

I started my speech iterating how I first became acquainted with Doc as a teenager since we went to church together, then worked with him 20 years later to establish an art exhibit program inside the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce. That the dream of Doc Strawbridge was part of my DNA.... 3 minutes seems so short (have no idea what I babbled forth after the set-up –- something about SAL paying $1,000 a month for the privilege of providing visual arts programming at Henegar over 13 years and that we sublet 4 rooms as working art studios proving that the Torpedo Factory model works here. I just expected SOMETHING in reaction..... So very odd.

Just got the letter that Phyl Strawbridge emailed to them all -– will share it.

John C Emery Sr


Feb. 20, 2015 at 12:28pm, by Stephen Dare

Comments from Stephen Dare regarding future of Old Mel Hi Building:
I am no longer a resident of Melbourne but certainly I remain proud and nostalgic about the town and especially the remaining buildings there that have historical “character” value. I suspect you are a bit under fire now that you are considering selling the Old Mel Hi Building. I definitely side with those within the community there that desire that the property be left intact. It is one of the few landmarks that causes me to smile each time I return to Melbourne. It is where I attended school and I certainly want to see it every time I “come home”!  
I am supportive of a combined art and multi-cultural center or some occupancy that would be of benefit to all of the town’s residents. Not everything has to be profitable or a big money maker if it means the sacrifice/loss of “part of what is the character” of Melbourne. I hope that you will permit much more input from everyone that wishes to speak to the issue of whether the property should be sold or not before you take any final action. Were I still in Melbourne I would certainly be a champion of retaining this landmark regardless of what it takes to maintain it. 

I wish I was there to address this personally with you. Though I am no longer a Melbourne voter I am hopeful this Email from me will help in some small way to draw your attention to the many persons in Melbourne that want to keep this wonderful Building.
Stephen Dare
Age 69
Now a resident of Sunset Beach, NC


Feb. 20, 2015 at 11:30am, by Brett Pigon

$40 million for baseball stadium. What not for the arts?

Technically BRAG (Brevard Regional Arts Group) is the one selling old Mel Hi.  

Brevard Public Schools merely clears the way by selling the public use recusal. (See Larry Hughes comments below about school board avoiding established procedures to protect public interest.)

None of them (at school board or city counciil) want to lead the way to another use. Perhaps they think it's not their role or within their power and maybe it's true and so another approach is needed -- they are not the EDC or county commission.

But there needs to be either a public champion to lead the way thru funding via bonds like they do for say, baseball stadiums, or a white knight with clout and money from the outside that has the vision for a cultural attraction in Brevard.

I saw Palm Beach is getting a new $40 million stadium for the Nationals and the state will help pay. Why for baseball but not the arts?  

Someone on Facebook said they would try to contact Bill Nelson but nothing yet has come of it.

Brett Pigon is Past President, The Arts Students Guild of Brevard


Feb. 19, 2015 at 12:15pm, by Larry Hughes
Letter to Editor, Florida Today, pulbished Feb. 19, 2015

The divestiture of rights to the old Melbourne High School by the School Board to a single bidder is not in the best interests of Brevard County taxpayers. Worse, such action may well be in violation of state law.
By way of background, nearly 40 years ago the Brevard School Board donated the old Melbourne High School for public purposes. Should it not be used for a public purpose, the property reverts back to the School Board. It appears that a developer now wants to develop this Downtown Melbourne property and is now offering through the City of Melbourne a nominal fee to have the School Board waive their rights to the property.
Should the property revert to the School Board, a series of steps would be required for the School Board to divest themselves of this and all District properties. The potential use of the property for educational purposes must be considered. This includes the use not only by the public schools but by charter school applicants who may wish to use the facility.
Should no educational use be found, the Board may then offer the property for sale to the highest bidder. This would, of course, be preceded by advertising the property for sale, qualification of bidders, inspection, contract negotiations, and ultimately a sale.
Obviating these established processes by considering only a single offer is not in the best interests of the Brevard Public Schools or of the taxpayers. It is particularly interesting that the advocates of this agreement tout themselves as free market conservatives while, in practice, they advocate for a closely held sole source relationship in which the developer will profit at the expense of the taxpayer.
Larry E. Hughes
Satellite Beach

(Note: Florida Today neglected to provide this relevant information: Larry Hughes was a School Board Member, Brevard Public Schools, 2000-2008)


Feb. 11, 2015 at 7:01pm, by Larry Hughes

As there is a ‘reversion’ clause on the property, the school should revert to the BPS (Brevard Public Schools).

If the BPS wishes to divest themselves of the property, according to state law (well, as of 2008) charter schools have first dibs.

If there is no expressed interest in the building, then it should go up for sale to the highest bidder.
To waive the reversion clause effectively bypasses the (plentiful) laws and precedents.

IMO (not an attorney), I believe the BPS and the developer would be at enormous exposure for taking such an action.
But what can one do?

A couple of things occur to me.

One, an ad hoc ‘charter school’ group – e.g., you and a few of your neighbors – could express an interest in using the facility for an inner city charter school. That would surely cause some waves.
Another approach would be to offer a $500,001 endowment to the BPS. One doesn’t need to actually have the cash, just make an offer. This would give visibility to the public that no consideration to competitive offers has been given.
Amy and Andy appear, again IMO, to be facilitating a closely held real estate transaction which would result in a large financial gain to the developer. As to campaign contributions and political favor, well ...

BTW, a couple of similar runs were put on the Pineapple property which is likely much more valuable.
Larry E. Hughes

Larry Hughes is a former School Board Member of Brevard Public Schools, 2000-2008


Feb. 11, 2015 at 11:26am, by Lloyd Behrendt

I'm too beat up to be active -- believe in your effort.  if you have any atty friends you might want to see if a citizen could stop the School board from undoing the reverter clause. If you even tie it up in court, the developer will likely scatter to find some other place to use his $. Just a thought.


Feb. 11, 2015 at 11:04am by Charlie Conrader

It's a shame to let a piece of history slip out of our hands, but you have to realize in all probability that the people on the school board never went to Mel Hi and probably are not even from Florida, I'm sure that would be a safe bet.

Back in 1926 my dad helped wire the school when it was being built.

It's amazing what greed can do to people, but these people and I'm referring to the school board should be made accountable for that money. Once that school has been removed and a high-rise put in its place all the history of our generation will be lost. And if you look around most of our generation is no longer with us.


Feb. 11, 2015 at 10:57am, by Marguerite Kuhl

I see the new construction bringing lots of tax dollars to the city which would remain in the redevelopment fund. I could be wrong. We don't have many "Historic" buildings, and most people don't care. They give property a higher value than what both together could command. With prices rising downtown no one could afford to acquire other property for community-cultural use.


Feb. 10 2015 at 1:57pm, by Katherine McElhinny

As President of Strawbridge Art League, I've been in the old Melbourne High School numerous times, admiring the high ceilings, big windows, wood flooring and grand staircase. Spent days with other volunteers throwing carpeting, trash and remnants into commercial dumpsters because I believed strongly that the Old Melbourne High School could be beautiful and vital again. I still do. We are willing to help. At S.A.L. we have over 150 active artists and 3,000+ supporters on our mailing list, many of whom are coming to me for answers. So, I am coming to you.

We do a lot for the community: Art in public places (at no charge to tax payers) PTSD Art therapy, homeschool art programs, Eau Gallie High School anti-bullying campaign, Humane Society Art Walk, womens self defense classes, free demos, tutoring, mentoring and more. However, we are limited by our current tiny building. And yet, tourists from over the bridge flock to Downtown Melbourne to check out the Art scene, shop and eat. We, the merchants, see the value of an active arts community every single day.

I know sometimes difficult decisions need to be made, and I'm sure the fate of a beloved Melbourne landmark is not an easy one. I'm not asking the powers that be to say no to razing the Melbourne High School, I'm just asking for a "not yet". No one understands the permanence of loss better than I do today (the anniversary of my child's death) so if Brevard County needs to lose this beautiful piece of history, let's make sure there's absolutely no other choice. After almost 90 years, don't we owe her that much?

Thank you,
Katherine McElhinny Ph.D.
President, Strawbridge Art League and Gallery
Cell: 321-368-7002


Feb. 10, 2015 at 9:58am, by Walter & Kitty Drew

Over 2 years ago, our steering committee toured the old high school building, considering the idea of developing an Adventure Center/Children's Museum.  We would like to create a space for children and families that is safe for exploration, invention and inspiration, and this building still feels like a perfect location. Young children are both artists and scientists and need open-ended opportunities to discover and develop their abilities. This Adventure Center concept can be developed together with our community educators and families.

Unfortunately, though our organization may be able to envision an ideal space for children to explore and learn together, we are a small non-profit and don't have the financial means to create this kind of environment. Some may have met us in Kid's World at Melbourne's annual Art Festival, creating newspaper hats, marble runs or robots, or at our Reusable Resources Adventure Center in West Melbourne.

If our community would like to save this building, we will need to have a community-wide team: organizations and businesses with funding abilities, builders, lawyers, designers, community visionaries and much more.  And since the current owners are motivated to sell, we would need to act as quickly as possible.

So, for all those who would like to save this piece of history, can we work together and act quickly? Can a group be convened to see just what is possible? What gifts can we bring together to enrich us all?

Walter and Kitty Drew, Directors
Institute for Self Active Education (isaeplay.org)
The Adventure Center: Children's Museum Project (reusecenterbrevard.org)
PO Box 511001, Melbourne Beach, FL 32951
321-984-1018, vidrew@gmail.com
The mission of the Adventure Center is to promote play in the arts and sciences.


Feb. 10, 2015 at 9:48am, by Kay Maxey

I graduated from Melhi in 1959, after attending Melbourne Elementary starting in 1st grade.  I really don't like to copy other people's letters to present my opinions, but the following letter/presentation fits my thoughts perfectly and is presented much better than I could.

I have been to a "Torpedo Factory" type of art center and loved it, even though I'm not an artist myself! 

It's sad when current politicians don't realize the damage that can be done when they make irreversible decisions based on immediate monetary gain for a private group of developers.

So here is yet another copy of the letter asking you to reconsider and to present this problem in a public forum.


Feb. 10, 2015 at 9:12am, by John Emery

Dear School Board Member:

Now that we are paying additional taxes specifically earmarked for schools
and education, is it appropriate that the school board should be
entertaining the divestiture of property clearly marked for "public use?"

Turning public property into private profit is not what I voted for when I
agreed to pay more sales taxes.  Please do not allow any change in the
status of the old Melbourne High School building in downtown Melbourne.  It
is now widely known as the "Doc Strawbridge" building and is supposed to be
turned into an arts center, a major cultural addition to the Space Coast,
and a facility open to the public.

John Emery
Past-President, Strawbridge Art League


Feb. 9, 2015 at 9:53pm, by Andy Ziegler, Brevard County School Board


On Feb 9, 2015, at 9:53 PM, Ziegler.Andy@School Board Office wrote:

Mr Guerin,
Thank you for your continued input and desire to save the old Melbourne High building. I can assure you there are, and have been, a lot of people that would like to see that building preserved. Several have evaluated the cost to refurbish the facility. I assume these evaluations are not all you are referring to as a feasibility study. However, if the cost to refurbish the facility is too high, that in my mind makes in not feasible.
I hope you understand the school district does not own the building. We do not have governance over whether this project moves forward or the fate of the building. Appealing to this board to halt the project is not a request within our purview or authority. Our only decision will be to decide that if the project moves forward, what is acceptable compensation to the school district, to remove the reverter clause on the deed.
In my personal opinion, the only way I can see this building being saved is if a group of philanthropist stepped up with the resources (funding), and a sustainable idea for the building’s usage. And then convince the Melbourne City council that that would be a better economic and cultural decision for the City of Melbourne and Brevard County.
Some say that because the School Board can refuse to remove the reverter, or hold out for a level of compensation that will kill the deal, that we have a say in this issue. While we could do that, I personally will not take a position that forces another elected bodies hand on what they feel is in the best interest of their area of authority. This board did not appreciate what the county commission tried to do to us when we were forced with a painful decision of closing schools. As much as I would like to see this building saved, I will not support this board attempting to inflict that same inappropriate control over the cities decisions.
I wish you the best in quickly finding a viable solution that works for everyone.
Andy Ziegler
Brevard County School Board District 5
Brevard Public Schools
2700 Judge Fran Jamieson Way
Viera, FL  32940



Feb. 9, 2015 at 11:11pm, by Spence Guerin


Mr. Ziegler: 

Thank you for your email and response.

At the school board workshop on January 27 where this issue was discussed but public was not allowed to comment, you were singularly the most anxious to abide by the wishes of the developer, instead of upholding the highest and best interests of the public schools. 

If it were not for others on the school board, the developer would probably already possess the old Melbourne High School building, at great loss to public interest, to school board, and to the City of Melbourne.

You even made the statement '"That building is worth zero."

I took notes. You think that building is worth zero? You and the developer would be the only ones to hold that view. 

From your dialogue on January 27, it was clear who you were speaking for, Mr. Ziegler, and it was not the best interests of the public schools, or the greater public interest.

True, there will be costs with any restoration of this building for public purpose re-use. 

But inability today to have in hand today the funds needed for tomorrow's improvements, is absolutely not a good rationale for not allowing an opportunity for full and proper feasibility study for the purpose of determining the highest and best use for that property, and -- furthermore -- for upholding the concept of public use of that property.

I thank you, and others, for serving on the school board and city council. However, I disagree strongly with the views you are expressing.

It may be possible "to find a viable solution that works for" the public good, including the public school and the city of Melbourne, but only if the School Board calls a 'time out' on this, and the City of Melbourne does likewise.

There will be no such opportunity for finding a "viable solution that works for everyone" if the property is sold on February 10 to a real estate developer who could build his building elsewhere -- and be celebrated for doing so.

First things first, Mr. Ziegler. 

Let's call a time out, and make time and space for working towards that "viable solution that works for everyone" -- including public schools, public interest, and the City of Melbourne.

Thank you, Mr. Ziegler, for sharing your views with me.

Spence Guerin
Melbourne, Florida


Feb.9, 2015 at 5:41pm

NEWSPAPER COLUMN by John A. Torres, Florida Today

Published online Feb. 9, 2010 at 5:41pm (link below) and
in print
on Tues Feb. 10 on page 3, Florida Today newspaper


'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?


Read complete column by John A. Torres: 



(Ed. note: We say: RIGHT ON, JOHN A. TORRES!)


Feb. 9, 2015, by Brett Pigon.

My name is Brett Pigon, I am a senior scientist with Harris Corporation in support of a cultural center being developed out of the old Melbourne High School. 

As an engineer, I recognize the funding and budget challenges of such a venture.  But let's recognize that we do not need to solve that now -- most important at the moment is for us all to agree that this goal is something we all desire -- a community with a rewarding and diverse cultural environment that enriches us all. 

We may lose a unique opportunity toward this vision if the high school is sold to a developer for just another apartment building. 

Also as an engineer, I have learned in my 32 years with Harris, that one cannot wait until times are comfortable to pursue something -- that is a recipe for opportunities lost.  Take the first steps and added pathways open up.  For that reason, I urge the board to first reject the apartment as a public use, and refuse to rescind the requirement as a condition of any future sale.  Then let the community, and business leaders of the area work to commission an open study of the issue, with a practical term limit to be agreed upon. 

Thank you for your consideration.

Brett Pigon


Feb. 9, 2015, by Patty Goffinet

My home is a few blocks away from the old Mel High and was built in the same year. It takes work and money to restore old buildings, but when it is a building as special as the high school, it is well worth the effort. Please wait and re-evaluate before selling this building and allowing it to be demolished. The building can and should be reused.
Thank you for your consideration,

Patty Goffinet
Melbourne, Florida


Feb. 9, 2015, by Larry Kaczmarek

I just wanted to tell you about an old High School in Orlando that has been converted into a Senior Center. My wife and I attend a Ballroom dance there on the last Saturday of every month, put on by Tony Santos and his wife. They have other dances during the month plus many other activities.  It is the Bardall Senior Center on Delaney St. off Mill  St. in downtown Orlando. Great use of a beautiful old building. 

As usual politicians have sold out to developers, follow the money, who is in the pockets of the developers. We're to quick in America to destroy great useful buildings and put up ones that really need to be replaced in 20 years.
Larry Kaczmarek
Palm Bay, Florida


Feb. 9, 2015, by C. Donaldson

Dear School Board Commissioners and City Council Representatives,

I live in downtown Melbourne and own, jointly with my husband, three properties downtown. I have lived downtown since 1982, and in Brevard since 1962. I love the downtown area and want it to be vibrant and sustainable economically & environmentally. I chose my first home here because I wanted a completely self-contained walkable community with CHARM AND TREES.

I am NOT opposed to apartments downtown or more intensive development. I recognize the benefits to all of us of having more residents downtown, and the potential for more “urban” style housing in downtown.

I do NOT support the destruction of the building without FIRST thoroughly, and transparently to the public, exploring every possible use for the existing structure which is charming, historical, built like a tank and significant to many of us in the community (and I’m a Satellite High grad who grew up on the beach). In my view, the “highest and best use” of the Old Melbourne High property is not an apartment building, which can be built elsewhere downtown (corner of Strawbridge & Waverly, or where the old Bank of Melbourne stood behind what is now Nomad’s restaurant).

I am also VERY much opposed to the expedient transfers of public property to private interests. Public confidence in our elected officials and public trust of the government is easily and quickly damaged when situations like this are poorly handled. A privately owned apartment building may have indirect public benefits, but it is NOT a public use and no amount of weasel wording will make it so.


BRAG was deeded the building with a reverter clause to protect the public’s original investment in constructing it. Statements by BRAG or others regarding the condition and potential of the building do not constitute a thorough, transparent feasibility study for rehabilitating and using the building for other purposes - art center or otherwise. Real estate people often have inflated notions of what makes a property usable, the better to raise the price. Historical buildings in very modest conditions are loved nationwide. Don’t be so quick to destroy ours!

Once this building is gone, it’s never coming back. They don’t build them like that anymore — a comment that even Wendy Brandon made to me in conversation not so long ago. Everyone recognizes that buildings of that era were built solidly and have endured because of that. No apartment building put downtown will begin to compare.

Protect the public interest. FIRST, get a complete and completely open to the public feasibility study.

Then we’ll see what the best course of action is.

Thank you for your time and attention.


Feb. 9, 2015, by Spence Guerin

Cultural Center? long term attraction?

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.

Combined with theater arts next door, this could be a true, lively cultural center -- providing much long term benefit to the area.

A proper feasibility study is needed.

In my opinion, it would be negligent for city leadership to proceed with sell off of this PUBLIC ASSET without full, exploratory feasibility study for reuse as an art center and/or cultural center, followed by full 'in the sunshine' review of study results.

The developer, Mr. Zimmerman, CAN build elsewhere in downtown Melbourne.

It would be a DOUBLE BONUS to have Zimmerman's worthy project at another downtown spot, AND

establish a cultural center at the old Mel Hi site -- would it not?


Feb. 9, 2015, by John Emery

The reality of all of this is that in the 14 years the Strawbridge Art League persisted at Henegar Center, spending $1,000 a month in rent for the privilege of hanging art on the walls there (and an additional $1,000 once a year- probably 8 times - to rent the theater for our “Academy Awards” ceremony of VISION, our annual juried show), I personally only made it into the Doc Strawbridge building (Old Mel Hi building) once on a brief tour with 30 other artists (yes, as Wendy Brandon is quoted - about 8 years ago).
We were NEVER invited in during all that time period to use the old Mel Hi “Doc Strawbridge building” space for exhibit purposes, or to use it for anything art-related at all....
Yet that was Doc Strawbridge’s vision of what this building was to be for....

John Emery is a past President of Strawbridge Art League, which referred to Old Mel Hi as the 'Doc Strawbridge Building.'

(Ed. note: John Emery advises that Strawbridge Art League paid approximately $100,000 into Henegar/Old Mel Hi over a 14-year period.)


Feb. 8, 2015, by Tom Beatty

Thank you for your efforts to get support for saving the Old Mel-Hi building.  I too was upset when I heard the proposal to tear it down and build apartments.  Several years ago there was an effort to raise money to refurbish the inside of the building.  I believe this money was raised by the organization in charge of the Henegar Center.  The question is what happened to that money.  I heard that it went into the Henegar Center general fund and was used by them.  This money was raised for the purpose of restoring the building and should be returned and put into a fund expressly for that purpose.  I know it wasn't enough but it would provide seed money to help get a new effort off the ground.

I have been thinking about the efforts of you and others to save the building.  I hope we can get the school board to delay action until we are given a chance to garner more support and start an effort to raise money for the purpose of refurbishing the building and making it a useful part of the arts community.
One of the ideas I have is to start a funding drive on one of the online donation sites like GoFundMe.

Also a group raised money for the purpose of saving the site of the Dragon on the southern tip of Merritt Island.  http://savedragonpoint.com/  Since the property has been sold and they have raised funds which I believe are to be used for charitable purposes if dragon point is not the purpose anymore.  We could contact them and see if they would use the funds they collected to help save the Old Mel-Hi building.

I have been spreading the word through my Facebook contacts.  We have a Facebook page for our Mel-Hi class of '64 reunion which I have posted information on.

Thanks again for your efforts.


Feb. 8, 2015, by Zena MacLean

I have put this on all of my FB pages...have had MANY hits. I still work and Tues. night is a late night for me. I will be there in spirit. I attended a play at the center last night and it was very emotional to be on the grounds. I certainly pray that this action will be reconsidered.


Feb. 8, 2015, by GM

Thanks for letting me know about this! I cut and pasted the body of the letter and emailed it to the list of commissioners and school board members. Hope this helps!


Feb. 8, 2015, by John Emery

Re-use of Old Mel Hi

Museums, such as the Foosaner Art Museum, are designed to be repositories for cultural heritage.  They are important and serve to remind us of who we are and where we came from.  Facilities such as Henegar Center and the proposed Doc Strawbridge Building (Mel-HI) are, however, equally important since they are designed to serve the LIVING here and now.  The Doc Strawbridge Building could well serve the living visual arts community for decades to come, generating new generations of creativity, beauty, and novel cultural heritages.
The Doc Strawbridge Building (Old Mel Hii) could easily involve three separate floors, serving three important cultural constituencies.  The top floor could well be Brevard’s “Torpedo factory” filled with working art studios.  The second floor could be dedicated to the dance arts and or involve such things as a wi-fi conference center.  The bottom floor could easily be dedicated to South Brevard History, as a showcase for things unique to our past not available in the county at other locations.  The uses for this existing historic building could be varied and manifold.

John Emery is a past President of Strawbridge Art League, which referred to Old Mel Hi as the 'Doc Strawbridge Building.'


Feb. 6, 2015, by Fran Slaughter

I have been to the Torpedo Factory many times on my trips to the DC area, both business-related and leisure, and always enjoy going there. I have never not bought something during those outings!

RE: MAI: Torpedo Factory provides "more than $16.2 million in direct revenues and received some 400,000 visitors annually." That's a pretty solid reason to at least get the study!

Fran Slaughter is a graduate of Mel Hi


Feb. 5, 2015, by B.J. Brown Freeman

To Brevard County Board Members: 
Even several thousand miles away, far across the Mississippi in Phoenix, Arizona, the reverberations from a recent email outlining the possibility of the destruction of Old Mel Hi were felt strongly.  Suddenly, precious childhood memories of beloved seesaws and a dusty playground that was so deep and wide that many a first kiss was shared beneath the grove of spreading oak (or pine?) trees were in jeopardy.  And the faces of wonderfully diverse classmates who learned more from each other than from any textbook, came sharply into focus - only to fade at the prospect of no longer having a vibrant context.
I came to Old Mel High in 1952 when my father - Dr. B. Frank Brown - was hired to be principal.  School was grand indeed to a child fortunate enough to grow up in the 50's and there could not possibly have been a grander building to have spawned and nurtured future dreams and hopes than the hallowed halls and hardwood floors of Old Mel High.
Education is so much more than books and chalk and tests and a city is so much more than development and economics and taxes.  A real city has to have a heart and to live and breathe and it has to have a continuing and visible thread of the past and present as well as its future.  It has to preserve its memories and burnish its charm - for those are the reasons why people stay and settle as well as why they come and visit.
Florida is a weird and wonderful place (read Swamplandia if you don't believe me!) with grand vistas and vast open spaces.  What it's characteristically short on however, is charm - and the few structural remnants of history that still remain on Melbourne's streets and corners need to be cherished and preserved. 
Apartments are pedestrian and a dime a dozen and mostly forgettable - and rarely stand the test of time.  Old Mel Hi has not only stood the test proudly, but houses enough energy and passion to withstand the slings and arrows of fortune for many more years to come.  It is a valuable and graphic symbol of permanency in a world that often seems to be spinning mindlessly out of control. 
I join the ranks of the legions of former students and concerned citizens who care deeply about this venerable monument and ask that you take the high road in reverence of the past and respect for the future, and grab the opportunity to preserve a truly majestic cornerstone of the City of Melbourne's most rich and colorful history.    
Thank you for your thoughtful consideration. 

B. J. Brown Freeman is a daughter of the late B. Frank Brown, who was a well-known Principal at Melbourne High School in the 1950 and 60s, school administrator, and author of 'The Nongraded High School' published in 1963. B.J. is a civic leade in Phoenix AZ.


BW, Jan. 29, 2015

Too bad words don't carry as much weight as money these days. I hate to think of losing all that history. We have actually decided to flee Florida, have sold our house and are moving (out of state). Will no doubt come back South for a while in the winters, but will find places to rent rather than owning two homes. … not too sad to leave Florida in the rearview mirror -- it's being overtaken by stupidity.


Jan. 28, 2015, by Spence Guerin
Letter to Editor at Florida Today,
remains UNnpublished as of Feb. 9, 2015

This letter was written in response to Florida Today news story published Jan. 27 and the proceedings of school board meeting on same date -- a meeting closed to public comment.

Letter to Editor (submitted to Florida Today but not published)

Old Melbourne High School public property should go to higher re-use, not an apartment building which can go anywhere.

Missing from Mackenzie Ryan's follow-up story in this morning's Florida Today, Wed. Jan. 28:

At the School Board workshop on January 27, which was closed to public comment, Melbourne City Mgr McNees proposed that an apartment building should be equated with 'public use' and should therefore be able to secure school property, the use of which requires 'public use.' That certainly is a stretch, don't you think? By McNees' reasoning, a restaurant or any other business open to the public would qualify...

McNees at the workshop said the Trinity Towers apartment building at the southwest corner of the original school property, facing Melbourne Avenue, established that apartment buildings are 'public use.' The establishment of that Trinity Towers project came with much public concern, because it, too, was a violation of original intent for use of school property. But with the persuasion of the late Father Boyer of Holy Trinity Church and others, no doubt, the misuse went forward, violation notwithstanding. (What if that place were a public recreational park today, and the apartments built elsewhere? Better PUBLIC use? You betcha.)

Real estate development people are always feeding at the public trough, at public expense, whenever possible. If that were not so, Zimmerman developers would be purchasing other VACANT property in Melbourne or purchasing property otherwise available, for development of their worthy project.

Worthy project. But wrong place.

There are higher and better uses for the old Melbourne High School building and site. 

What we're short on is creative imagination -- to which some may object, saying 'there's no money...' 

It is always a matter of priorities, isn't it?

We may not have adequate cultural interests to pursue the higher and better uses for the old Melbourne High School building and site. 

The old high school building was built to last, wasn't it? It'll probably be longer-lived than the city's new City Hall building, with its fake brick veneer.

I say put the apartment  building project elsewhere, and thank Zimmerman for doing so.

And find a REAL PUBLIC RE-use for the old Melbourne High School building, before that opportunity is lost forever.

Melbourne Florida has a history of bungling misuse of public properties.

The famed Trysting Steps property was given to the City of Melbourne for public use IN PERPETUITY -- forever. 

The property north of there, along the bluff for some distance, was given to the City of Melbourne for public use IN PERPETUITY -- forever. 

All of that land -- given to the City of Melbourne for public use IN PERPETUITY -- forever -- was GIVEN away to development interests, most recently the Trysting Steps property which occupied a fabulous site for small public park complete with park benches under the big oak and bay shade trees. 
The late mayor, Harry Goode Jr, called that property an 'eyesore' and then acted to give the land to developer Hines, for a building that was never built. City Manager McNees used the same words to portray the empty Melbourne High School building: 'an eyesore.' 

Additionally, the Wells family gave to City of Melbourne for public PARK use IN PERPETUITY -- forever -- ALL of the former Wells Park property, which encompassed all the land now occupied by Melbourne Public Library on Fee Avenue, and the Melbourne Municipal Auditorium. Both projects were built in violation of the Wells family gift to the City of Melbourne. 

Also related and missing from Mackenzie Ryan's story, citizens should be made aware that School Board member Andy Ziegler was most anxious to part with the school property, working in concert with development interests instead of public interest, in my opinion. Unlike Ziegler, Amy Kneesy and Karen Henderson defended the greater public interest, and wouldn't too easily, quickly and freely give away this school board real estate resource. 

Ms. Kneesy stated that only a year ago, the city of Melbourne had granted exemptions for school taxes in an incentive agreement with other Northrop Grumman. Not too cool, Melbourne!

There will be a missed opportunity here if the old Mel Hi building is torn down for an apartment building spot, and it will be a clear violation of the intent of 'public use' of school property.

The City of Melbourne suffers from a severe lack of vision, with accompanying lack of cultural interest. 


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