Lexington Hearing & Speech Center to purchase old Julia R. Ewan School

Julia R. Ewan  Elementary School closed in 2008. It was sold at  auction in 2009 to a private buyer, who has had three offers for it go south.
Julia R. Ewan Elementary School closed in 2008. It was sold at auction in 2009 to a private buyer, who has had three offers for it go south.

The Lexington Hearing & Speech Center has scheduled a news conference for 3 p.m. Wednesday to announce its purchase of the old Julia R. Ewan Elementary School on Henry Clay Boulevard.

King Offutt, chairman of the center's board, declined to discuss details, saying he didn't want to "steal the thunder" from the event. But he indicated that the center was buying the property and will move its entire operation from its facility on North Ashland Avenue to the former school.

Earlier this year, Vineyard Community Church signed a contract to buy the Ewan property for $1.5 million, contingent on securing financing and getting a conditional-use permit from the Lexington Fayette Urban County Government to operate a church there.

Vineyard ran into strong neighborhood opposition; residents complained about insufficient parking for the growing congregation, noise and the church's outreach programs to the poor. Vineyard eventually dropped its plans.

Hearing & Speech Center board members met with the Fairway Neighborhood Association in October to talk about their plans for the building.

"They were very open. We feel like it's going to be a really good relationship that will grow between the neighborhood and the school," said Valerie Askren, president of the neighborhood association.

In August, former President Bill Clinton came to Lexington to kick off a $3 million fund-raising campaign to replace the facility on North Ashland Avenue, where the Hearing & Speech Center has been for 41 of its 50 years.

In 2009, Offutt said, the Hearing & Speech Center served 1,000 youngsters from 47 counties. The school teaches children with hearing, speech and language impairments to listen and talk, offering education, therapy and family support. It also operates a day-care center.

The school will expand services in its new location, Offutt said. He declined to provide details before the news conference.

The Hearing & Speech Center will be buying the former public school near Idle Hour Country Club from Lexington businessman Bill Meade, who bought it for $1,225,000 at public auction in April 2009 after Fayette County Public Schools declared it surplus property. Mead said he bought the school, which he once attended, in hopes of seeing it preserved.

The Hearing & Speech Center is the fourth party to express public interest in the school.

Earlier this year, before Vineyard, Creation Kingdom Fairway said it hoped to buy the school for a childhood development center, but it abandoned the effort after a month.

In September 2009, Lexington's Good Shepherd Day School gave up its efforts to buy the building for use as a faith-based school. A church official said it was unable to raise the money to buy the property.