Minneapolis school board urged to split Northrop site

  • Article by: STEVE BRANDT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 26, 2013 - 9:36 PM

Staff backed a popular charter school over millions in new tax base, but developer and neighbors urged senior housing be approved, too.

Minneapolis should split the former Northrop school property so that a well-regarded charter school and a senior housing development can both go ahead with building plans, the city school board was urged Tuesday night.

School staff recommended that the district sell or rent the site for a planned charter school expansion by Hiawatha Academies. But Council Member John Quincy, developer of United Properties, and the neighborhood group balked at that, urging that the site be split.

The staff recommendation earlier Tuesday was somewhat surprising, given that both the city and the neighborhood had urged a sale to the sole other bidder, United Properties, which offered $1.2 million, $200,000 more than Hiawatha.

United also wants to renovate the building for a charter school and use the former playground for at least 30 units of senior housing. Unlike Hiawatha, its proposal would create new taxable properties worth at least $5.5 million. .

Hiawatha’s proposal would spend nearly four times more on renovating the school, but the development would not go on the tax rolls because it would be leasing the building from a nonprofit corporation.

Hiawatha operates two highly regarded charter schools and signed an agreement last month with the district to cooperate on facilities.

Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson said the recommendation is based on the district’s expanding strategy to work more closely with schools getting superior results with students of color.

The board is expected to vote on March 12, although Alberto Monserrate and Josh Reimnitz have recused themselves for conflicts.

Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438

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