A place that once welcomed throngs of children is being eyed as a place to house scores of seniors.

The city of Rosemount is searching for a developer who could help transform the site of the old Church of St. Joseph school, which is attached to the Steeple Center, into a senior housing facility. There's also talk of including a public senior center.

According to an April study, Rosemount doesn't offer any senior housing facilities that provide assisted living and memory care.

Rosemount doesn't have a large senior population compared to other south-metro suburbs. New 2010 census numbers indicate that 8 percent of Rosemount residents are age 65 and older. That's behind neighbors such as Inver Grove Heights, Apple Valley and Mendota Heights, which all have percentages in the double digits.

But for the seniors who do live in the community, once they need assisted living they have to move to another city, which is a problem, said Mayor Bill Droste.

"Having friends and people you know around you, that is important," he said.

Last week, the Rosemount City Council approved a request for interested developers to provide their qualifications, cost estimates and preliminary concept plans for the site. The City Council is expected to choose a development team in October, and construction could start in the spring of next year.

The building, located on S. Robert Trail, was built in 1924, and the connecting school in the 1950s. After the church relocated in 2003, Rosemount bought it in part to be able to construct the nearby Robert Trail Dakota County Library. While the church was renovated and reopened last July as an events venue, the school, which would require some work before it too could be re-used, has been kept shuttered.

Earlier this year, the city received a $250,000 grant from the Dakota County Community Development Agency to demolish the building.

Recently, the city was approached by the Rosemount Area Seniors organization, which requested dedicated space for its programming. Right now, senior activities are run out of the city's community center.

The new space probably would be primarily for the community's senior population, but it could also be used by the general public.

The site would be ideal for seniors because of its proximity to the library, downtown and the Steeple Center, Droste said.

Supporters of the idea say the redevelopment of the school site would not just help seniors -- it could attract a taxpaying entity to the city's downtown.

Some of the land is also proposed to be used for additional storage and restroom facilities for the Steeple Center, as well as shared parking.

Nicole Norfleet • 612-673-4495