On the Move 

Visible School moves one step closer to its new downtown home.


The future for Visible School Music & Worship Arts College is becoming a little more, well, visible.

It's been over a year since Visible School officials began raising money to move into the modern wedge-shaped C&I Bank Building at 200 Madison Avenue. On February 1st, Visible School will hold a groundbreaking ceremony at the iconic downtown building, which it bought from the Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce in 2009.

The ceremony will celebrate the renovation portion of the college's "Into the City" capital campaign. Now that the second phase of fund-raising is drawing to a close, the school's president says a move into the downtown building could happen by August.

"We're just taking it by stages and still looking for some support from everybody," said Visible School president Ken Steorts.

For now, the college is housed in the Galloway United Methodist Church building in the Cooper-Young neighborhood, along with Lifelink Church. Before that, Visible School shared space with Lifelink in a warehouse in Lakeland.

Ultimately, the capital campaign's goal is to raise $6 million to renovate the glass-fronted structure on Madison into a state-of-the-art campus for the 10-year-old music and worship arts college.

At one time, the former C&I Bank building was scheduled to be razed for a surface parking lot. The Greater Memphis Chamber had originally planned to move their operations there in 2007, but executives determined the move would be too costly.

Visible School officials began raising money to buy the endangered structure from the Chamber Foundation for $1 million. Since then, they have continued fund-raising for renovations.

The first floor will have a 200-seat auditorium for concert training and public events. The second floor will have music teaching studios and band rehearsal rooms, while the third floor will be equipped with keyboard labs and classrooms. Administrative offices and student services are planned for the fourth floor.

Once the first four floors are completed, recording studios will be installed in the basement. The fifth floor is slated to become a library with bookshelves, café-style seating, and personal practice space for student musicians.

Also under the $6 million fund-raising umbrella is student housing. Right now, 72 of the college's 110 students live four blocks east of the new building at 670 Madison, a condominium development the school leased two years ago.

In the meantime, a study of how much the college will contribute to the downtown economy is in the works. Once the study is complete, the numbers will help gauge the value of everything from renovation activity to how student spending will affect the downtown area.


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