WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — The old Bowie Elementary School has been sitting vacant for years, but one couple is trying to put the building to use.
One of the items on the Wichita Falls City Council agenda was to discuss rezoning the building for expansion. The owners of the land are Kenneth Williams and Dr. Cintrea Grace-Williams.
“Dr. Williams and her husband Reverend Williams, from Fort Worth, are building a development on trout that would include the Bowie school location, and the area behind that. Which is right across the street on Otis Polk from the Habitat for Humanity Housing,” community member Valerie Rhodes said.
They run two non-profits and proposed to change the school into a multi-functioning cultural development center offering a neighborhood garden and food pantry, as well as, using the land behind the school for additional apartment dwellings.
“Things like an art center, community rooms for people to come in and do multiple things. Everything from veterans meetings to quinceaneras, to holiday celebrations, for weddings. This space will be able to be a rental facility, as well as, a community base for other non-profits to come in and have meetings and have a place to do what it is they do and offer that offers some kind of service to the community,” Grace-Williams said.
Although some community members are against allowing the proposal to be made by people who aren’t residents of Wichita Falls, the couple says their intentions are pure.
“This abandoned building provided the greatest opportunity, the greatest opportunity because it is abandoned. It speaks to the community that is abandoned. So somebody comes, I’m a contractor, you come and you store, you bring life, you bring an idea, you bring an image that we want everybody to see,” Williams said.
Residents also mentioned being worried about not having basic necessities and the development of the east side of Wichita Falls.
“There are so many other things that are needed on the east side of Wichita Falls and you can only ignore a withered hand for so long. Our section of town has no major grocery store, our section of town has no major retailer except for the Family Dollar, and if it hadn’t been for Deandra Chenault, we would not have had the Family Dollar, she was instrumental in that. And that was the first major store coming to east side in 50 years or more,” Rhodes said.
Councilman Larry Nelson declared a conflict of interest in this matter, so he was not able to vote or comment. But in the end, the vote of the council members passed the zoning change in support of the project.
The couple plans to begin fundraising efforts to start the first stages of the development.