They had been planning to restore the Torrence-Lytle School to its original condition to turn it into a school for African American students in the community.
The former educators were hoping their four kids could attend the school they wanted to open. But since this process has been ongoing for several years, that dream is now lost for their 18-year-old son who is graduating high school this year. The North Carolina couple concluded they were discriminated against and decided it was time to pursue legal action.
The couple is accusing the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission of racial discrimination after they say officials have made it difficult to acquire the property. Last month, the Bateses filed a lawsuit alleging the commission is attempting to block them from purchasing Torrence-Lytle School by offering White buyers lower prices and not requiring them to provide architectural plans, make significant down payments or show extensive financial statements. The couple also alleges the commission hasn’t returned any of their two deposits of $5,000.
Huntersville Colored School, currently known as Torrence-Lytle School, opened in 1937 and was among the schools built for Black students in the area because of segregation. The school is in Pottstown, which is a historically Black neighborhood in the town of Huntersville. The town is about 14 miles away from Charlotte and is about 80 percent White and 12 percent Black.
The Bateses had been hoping to turn the historic landmark into a school for underserved Black students since 2016. The couple currently own and operate the Successful Start Learning Center, which is an afterschool and summer program they founded in 2004.
“As Black consumers looking to purchase, we were made to meet certain contingencies that no other buyer has had to meet,” Regina Bates told CNN. “We’re convinced that they are not looking to have a Black school in a gentrified area, so they’re doing everything in their power to try to stop this particular piece of history. They want to wash it away.”
When reached by CNN, the commission declined to comment on the lawsuit, or the allegations made against them.
The commission is also accused of discriminatory real estate practices, breach of duties of good faith and fair dealing, negligence in care of historic property and the use of unfair and deceptive trade practices.
The couple is seeking damages of at least $25,000 as well as the return of the $10,000 deposit. They are also asking for Torrence-Lytle School to be granted to them for the cost of a dollar.
“Ideally, we would like to help the Bateses secure ownership of the property,” Faith Fox, the attorney representing the couple told CNN. “That’s the main goal and once they have it, to work with them to make sure that they are able to get a lot of the funding that was available years ago, and hopefully is still there, and it’s still a resource for them to be able to restore the buildings.”
Fox told CNN that Huntersville is heavily gentrified and…