Update 4/6/2022: Read more about Tyson and Regina Bates from CNN here.
Original Story 3/24/2022: Cochran Firm attorney Faith Fox of The Cochran Firm Charlotte is representing Tyson and Regina Bates in a discrimination lawsuit against the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission. The couple attempted to purchase the historic Torrence-Lytle School and renovate it to serve as an affordable private school for underserved children. This effort has seemingly been met with push back from the commission.
The school first opened its doors in 1937 under the name Huntersville Colored School, but the name was changed during the Brown v. Board of Education fight to honor Isaiah Dale Torrence and Franklin Lytle. The two were pivotal in the creation of the school. The school became a center for the Mecklenburg Black community. The school closed 12 years after other schools were desegregated.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic commission purchased the building in 2007 with the original intent of preserving the building but decided to sell it a few years later.
Tyson and Regina Bates, both teachers and founders of Successful Start Learning Center, spotted the school in 2015. After researching the property and learning of its historical significance, they decided to attempt to purchase the property.
The lawsuit claims that they met in 2016 to purchase the building but noticed they were continually asked for documents that other potential buyers were not required to submit, including financial statements and details of their plan to preserve the building.
“It was over and over again that they would send us more questions so we would meet the requirements that they thought were too substantial for us to meet. And after we met those requirements, they would ask us for more.”- Regina Bates
Towards the end of 2016, an agreement was made that the couple would purchase the property for $148,000, but this deal fell through. In 2017 the commission began a project to remove asbestos from the building and after, told the Bates that the new price for the building was $424,000. The couple then requested a 90-day extension because their original loan officer had retired during the almost year-long process of asbestos removal. The request was denied, and the contract was terminated in October of 2017.
About 6 months later a new buyer was under contract for the property with a purchase price of only $350,000. This deal fell through and the Bates attempted to purchase the property again, this time with an initial purchase price of $409,000. They signed a contract in June 2019, but were later asked for more money for the property with no explanation as to why. The commission then “abruptly and without explanation” terminated the contract. Then again, in 2020, another developer was interested in the property and would later be under contract to purchase the property for only $285,000.
The Bates still believe and hope that they will one day own the historic landmark.
“There’s a long-standing tradition in this country of redlining and doing all kinds of other illegal things to keep certain people out of certain areas. But I was still shocked because it’s the Historic Landmarks Commission, and you want to believe that they really are standing by their mantra, which is to preserve all of these historic landmarks around the county.”- Cochran Firm Attorney Faith Fox
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