BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
Greeneville businessman and philanthropist Scott Niswonger says he has not been involved in any recent discussions with Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, and the school reportedly remains committed to remaining in Gatlinburg.
A recent news story in The Knoxville News Sentinel stated that negotiations were stalled concerning the purchase by the famed arts school of the downtown-Gatlinburg property where the school campus is located.
The property is owned by the Pi Beta Phi literary fraternity.
SERIOUS TALKS IN 2010
The News Sentinel article stirred interest in Greeneville.
In 2010, when it appeared that an agreement between Arrowmont and the fraternity might not happen, the school investigated acquiring new property either in Knoxville or in Greeneville, and moving to one of those two communities.
In Greeneville, a farm off Old Shiloh Road owned by Niswonger was under serious consideration.
He and the Greene County Partnership worked together to encourage the Arrowmont Board of Governors to consider moving the school to Greeneville.
Niswonger offered to donate free-and-clear ownership of his 55-acre Creekside Farm on Old Shiloh Road, as well as the promise that the surrounding 150 acres would remain undeveloped beyond, perhaps, some walking trails.
But these, among other incentives, proved unsuccessful in attracting the school from its current campus after the Pi Beta Phi fraternity agreed to renew the lease under an ongoing $1 per year arrangement, and negotiate an agreement to sell the property to the school.
The issue has been essentially out of the news since then, until the News-Sentinel article about stalled negotiations triggered local questions about whether Arrowmont might be interested again in the Niswonger property here.
The Greeneville Sun asked Niswonger if fresh discussions had occurred, but he notified the newspaper through a spokesman that no discussions about the local property are taking place at this time.
Pi Beta Phil, the literary fraternity, was founded in 1912 by Arrowmont's forerunner, the Settlement School, in Gatlinburg.
The Settlement School was Pi Beta Phi's first philanthropy and became known as Arrowmont in the 1940s. The school has always been in Gatlinburg, and is controlled by its Board of Governors.
Since the 2010 renewal of the lease agreement, the board and the fraternity have been in negotiations on a purchase price for the campus, according to the News Sentinel.
Reported differences in appraisals between residential and commercial property value have at least temporarily stalled these negotiations.
Despite the delays, however, the school remains committed to the Gatlinburg campus and is not considering other locations, according to the News Sentinel report.