Mpls. school district to move HQ to the North Side

A new $27.5 million facility on W. Broadway will make operations more efficient, board members say. Neighbors hope it will also give the area an economic boost

Stressing economics over neighborhood politics, the Minneapolis school board agreed Tuesday to move the school district's headquarters from its northeast home of 50 years to a new $27.5 million facility on the city's North Side.

For weeks, and again in public testimony Tuesday, the action was promoted by North Side advocates and district administrators as a means to help spur a W. Broadway revival.

But with its 5-2 vote, the board made nary a mention of the headquarters as an economic development tool, focusing instead on the immediate need to reap savings on capital and operating costs for its far-flung administrative offices.

"The time is right," board Chairman Tom Madden said.

But board member Jill Davis, who along with colleague Carla Bates voted against the proposal, said the proponents should gird themselves for criticism from outstate legislators. "Wow," she envisioned the legislators saying in a future Minneapolis push for funding. "Look at how you manage your resources."

Bates said she could not support having the district's most up-to-date facility be geared toward administrative rather instructional purposes.

Neighborhood tussle

Two weeks ago, the district delayed a scheduled vote on the North Side move to allow developers to promote alternative plans to the public.

It also became clear then, that a tug of war had been created along the 21/4-mile stretch between the current home at 807 NE. Broadway and the proposed new building at 1250 W. Broadway.

For its part, the district's administration recommended a new headquarters, citing the relative certainty of new construction costs and a desire to help energize the W. Broadway corridor -- a city priority.

In addition to a proposal to renovate the current headquarters, school board members also had before them a third option -- a move to the iconic Valspar building downtown.

After Tuesday's vote, the district now will begin finalizing plans with a development team led by Mortenson Development and Legacy Management and Development Corp., the latter a minority-owned firm that helped develop a library at what once had been the site of a notorious sex-oriented theater in St. Paul.

The Rev. Michael O'Connell, pastor of Church of the Ascension in north Minneapolis, told board members that the vote to move to 1250 W. Broadway "will give us the life we have needed" on the North Side.

Earlier, Steve Liss, the district's chief of operations, said a new building could cost the district about $1 million more than either of the two proposed renovations. But elements of the plan, to be fine-tuned now, could be scaled back, he said.

In addition, he added, 807 NE. Broadway had greater market value, if put up for sale, than the W. Broadway site. Housing is one option for the property.

Anthony Lonetree • 612-673-4109

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