DULUTH – The school board is in close talks with a developer with an offer on the Historic Old Central High School downtown, which has been on the market since January.
The board will have a closed meeting next Tuesday to discuss the potential sale of the property, a brownstone built in 1892 that now houses district administration offices and Duluth’s Area Learning Center and Academic Excellence Online programs.
At a meeting Tuesday evening, the board heard comments from the public about halting academic use of the building — a necessary procedural step in the sales process.
No price has been listed for the property, but an assessment conducted last year said it would require $48.5 million in repairs in the near future if the district continues to use it.
Historic Old Central High School is listed on national and local historic registers. School board members have previously expressed a desire to make sure any future owner would prioritize its preservation. Thousands of students attended classes at the Romanesque-style building until a newer Central High School was built in 1971.
That property, a 77-acre site on Duluth’s hillside, has been listed for sale since shortly after it closed in 2011. The school board last year started exploring a plan that would move some of the offices and programs now housed in Historic Old Central to the back third of the newer school’s land. The remaining two-thirds of the property would be sold for development.
District officials would not say what the interested buyer planned to do with Historic Old Central. They also did not say where the learning center and online programs would be moved, though staff from those groups said at Tuesday’s meeting they appreciated being involved in early conversations about a potential move.
A handful of historic preservationists also spoke at the meeting, urging the district not to sell the property that many called iconic to Duluth.
“I think this is the district’s most valuable asset other than our children,” said Mike Poupore, president of the Duluth Preservation Alliance.