FAIRHOPE – The Pelican’s Nest and four other buildings on the campus of the Fairhope K-1 Center will become learning centers for the Fairhope Educational Enrichment Foundation under a plan approved by the City Council.
The council voted unanimously May 24 to approve a 25-year lease that would allow FEEF to operate the site at a cost of $1 a year. FEEF will maintain the buildings under the terms of the lease.
Councilman Jimmy Conyers said FEEF will use the buildings as a science, technology, engineering, arts and math, or STEAM, facility.
“It would basically be the land that encompasses the four buildings that are being proposed to be used as a STEAM center and also the Pelican’s Nest with a small parcel kind of in between connecting those properties,” Conyers said. “It would be an outdoor classroom, so that’s being proposed for a 25-year lease of $1 a year with details we can iron out through the process of getting that lease prepared.”
Councilman Corey Martin said the lease will allow FEEF to continue to provide learning opportunities for Fairhope area students.
“I think this is a great opportunity. FEEF has invested their money to upgrade this particular facility, these buildings and this area. The first phase would be the renovation of the Pelican’s Nest for our kids and our estuary and them learning about the bay,” Martin said. “I’m a parent. I’ve gone through three of those and I think it’s a beautiful thing as far as the learning opportunities for our kids about our bay and all the organisms that reside in our bay.”
He said the facility will be a benefit for the entire community.
“As far as the engagement of the community, these facilities are going to be maintained by FEEF, but they’re not hoarding them,” Martin said. “As far as community engagement, it does follow with the community engagement and as far as my due diligence is concerned, FEEF will allow business meetings, etc. as far as innovation, but these rooms will also be used for STEAM participation in classroom participation for our kids in our community and adults as well.”
The 25-year lease will allow the facility to grow and for FEEF to make long-term investments in the center, Conyers said.
“I believe they wanted to see this property continue to be used for some education component and this would be an educational enrichment opportunity for Fairhope and I think in order for FEEF to spend the kind of money that I believe it will take to bring this property to the state that they would like it to be in, they need a guarantee that they’re going to have more than just two or three at a time,” Conyers said.
Conyers and other council members said the city would add a provision to the lease that would require the Pelican’s Nest and other buildings to be used for education. If the facility was not used for a period of time, the city would take over the site.
“I would like to have something in here to, if it is not being used for intended purposes, reverts back to the city,” Conyers said. “I wouldn’t want FEEF to get in a situation where the property just sat dormant for 10 or 15 years with no other use, so I think we just need to have some kind of a reversion clause that if, for whatever reason, FEEF decides to abandon or pause on the mission that the property would come back to the city of Fairhope.”
The K-1 Center was built in 1925 and closed in 2011. Fairhope bought the K-1 Center from the Baldwin County Board of Education in 2019.
The Pelican’s Nest opened in 1997 as a marine science center for kindergarten through sixth grade students. Earlier this year, FEEF announced plans to provide services to seventh through 12th grade students as well as elementary pupils and to also offer instruction in STEAM, programs.