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That leaves many eyeing the school board site, which sits next to the light rail stop. The school district moved its adult education programs there in recent years after selling the Buzza building in Uptown for redevelopment. Its central location and proximity to transit have made it a popular spot for students.
“We’re not fooling anybody,” said Mark Bollinger, the school district’s deputy chief operations officer. “The same reasons that we find it successful and useful for us would be the same that a mixed-use [development] or a business … might find it useful. Its location is just a great location.”
Officially the site isn’t for sale, but the board did issue a request for proposals to develop the site in 2010. L & H Station Development drafted a plan that included more than 500 apartments, 80,000 square feet of office space, adult education facilities and space for farmers market vendors, who currently operate on the school board surface parking lot in the summer.
But talks broke down in 2012, partly because the school board could not make the finances work. Since then, Hennepin County has entered the fray as it looks for sites to disperse its downtown human services hub. Commissioner Peter McLaughlin said the county is considering purchasing the site, which could pave the way for a sequential development.
“Our problem is we’re running out of time,” McLaughlin said. “We’ve been doing this for 10 months. And we need to be moving out of” the downtown location.
New City Council Member Alondra Cano has put a new spotlight on the property in her first weeks in office. A former school district employee, she said recently that she was meeting with school superintendent Bernadeia Johnson to discuss possible new locations for the adult education programs.
“The city hasn’t prioritized this project,” she said, adding that the stakeholders have been talking more lately about what they want out of any deal. “This has to be a win-win for everyone involved.”
Eric Roper • 612-673-1732 Twitter: @StribRoper