District 281 Purchases House by Lakeview

From the Sun Post

District 281 approves purchase of house adjacent to Lakeview Elementary

A proposed $11.4 million remodeling project at Lakeview Elementary School in Robbinsdale now has an added dimension: acquisition of a house on the west side of the school.  The acquisition, plus Review and Comment documents to be submitted to the Minnesota Department of Education, were approved at the July 11 Robbinsdale District 281 School Board meeting.

Boardmember Mark Bomchill cast the lone dissenting vote. The board voted to approve purchasing the property at 4202 Lake Drive Ave. N., Robbinsdale, for $299,900. The house has been on the market for eight months.  According to Hennepin County tax records, the 88-year-old house was purchased in June 2005 for $317,500 and the property owner currently owes $3,425 in taxes. The property’s estimated market value, according to county records, is $223,000. “Obviously I want the kids to be safe,” Bomchill said. “But the school is in a position to be rehabilitated in its current state. Now we’re looking at an additional $300,000, money that could be used elsewhere. I question the appropriateness of this. We should work with what we have at Lakeview. I would like to move forward without the purchase of the property.”

So the property is worth $223,000 but we are paying $300,000? Though we largely think Mark Bomchill has been a disappointment, we thank him for his vote in this case.

Lakeview, at 4110 Lake Drive, is one of two remaining unrenovated buildings in District 281. Lakeview and Northport Elementary in Brooklyn Center were spared when the School Board selected three buildings to close in the spring of 2009, despite the fact that both facilities have significant deferred maintenance issues.

“After the decision to keep the schools open, virtually everyone at the table preferred to have new schools, but there was a good reason not to go that route,” Supt. Aldo Sicoli said.

Yes we know what the good reason was; it would have required a public vote which you didn’t want to give us.

“We preferred deferred maintenance, though we knew it would be difficult. We went through a lot of work to explain our decision to keep Northport and Lakeview open. Now, to have a property adjacent that could really help with storm drainage and traffic pattern seems like quite an opportunity.”  According to Jim Gerber, District 281’s Buildings and Grounds facilities program director, the current Lakeview property is less than half of the recommended size for an elementary school. The six-acre site has no side street parking, he said.

“Parking is a very high need on that site,” Gerber said. “There are a lot of walkers to the school that have limited site visibility. Pedestrian site lines and traffic on the site are very high needs there. We really need to push this to a higher priority for that site.”  Officials at the Minnesota Department of Education also have discussed a need for a pond for storm water management on the Lakeview site, Gerber said.  “It’s important to consider this land acquisition to help mitigate some concerns,” Gerber said. “It will be a significant return on investment for the district.”

It is spending, not investing!

Acquisition of the property will help address storm water management issues, improve site circulation and safety of bus and car traffic, and also provide additional staff parking, according to Jeff Priess, District 281’s executive director of business services. “It has become a pretty important piece of our Review and Comment,” Priess said. He said the district plans to close on the property Aug. 1.

Greg Dehler, a representative of Wold Architects and Engineers, St. Paul, noted that no property was available for purchase when the school district made its initial report to the Department of Education in 2010 on proposed renovations at Lakeview. “When property like this in a landlocked situation becomes available adjacent to a school, the Department of Education thought it would be an ideal situation,” Dehler said.

Boardmember Patsy Green said she recalls many informal conversations about the constraints on the Lakeview property because of its size. She said she didn’t recall “any promises that we would work within the limited constraints of this property.”

Well of course!  When do we ever promise to work within constraints?  If there is chance to spend another person’s money, then spend it!

“MDE had a lot of concern about our spending time on a property that small,” Green said. “We talked about whether there would be any way to expand the site, and there was no thought that anything would come up. This is an opportunity that’s essential for us to act on to make that site better.” Green noted that traffic at Lakeview “is the worst of any of our buildings.” “This is one of those unique opportunities presented to us,” Green said. “I don’t recall a promise not to enhance any of our properties.”

Boardmember Linda Johnson said the board in the past did promise that unrenovated schools would be remodeled to the same level as previous schools had been. “We promised those two schools [Lakeview and Northport] they would have the same opportunities as the rest of the schools,” Johnson said. “I see this as fulfilling that promise. The extra piece of property allows us to renovate Lakeview similar to the rest of the schools.”

“This enhances the property for our kids,” Boardmember Sherry Tyrrell said. “If we can make it better, that’s a plus.”

Changes at Lakeview, slated to take place during the summers of 2012 and 2013, will include expanding and modifying the entrance to be more secure, as well as shifting location of a loading dock. “We consolidated from three years to two years to save additional money,” Dehler said. “I still think the market is good for construction and that we can get decent bids.” Lakeview’s renovations will be funded through alternate facilities allocation and district capital funds.

Yeah when is that public vote again?

Incorporating the land now occupied by the home at 4202 Lake Drive will provide space for storm water drainage, Dehler said. Priess said district officials have talked to city of Robbinsdale about possibility of moving the stucco house. However, he noted that it was built in 1923 and would have to be brought up to code before it could be moved. It is possible components of the house could be sold at an auction, Priess said.

A Review and Comment document for the maintenance options was approved by the board for submittal to the Minnesota Department of Education for input. “We are ready for final state review,” Dehler said. “If they would just get back to work, we would be all set. We had a good meeting with the DOE. We presented our initial findings, so they’ve already seen a draft. It should go fairly straight forward once they get back to their desks.”

Dehler said officials are hoping from a response from the state by September, so the project could be bid in the first few months of 2012.

MDE has 60 days to provide a response to the documents the district submits. Once the school district receives a response from the state, the district has two years to enter into a contract for the work it outlined to the state.

One Response to “District 281 Purchases House by Lakeview”

  1. amyrobynne Says:

    I visited the home at 4202 Lake Drive during an open house while it was for sale and it would be a shame if it was torn down. It was a good size with a wonderful layout and lots of closet space and room for entertaining. The kitchen and basement were recently remodeled in a way that added to, rather than detracted from the charm of the original 1923 house. The nearly acre parcel seemed like a rare treat for Robbinsdale. I suspect that the only reason it didn’t sell was because it was substantially overpriced. The previous owners paid, I think, $317,000 for it right before the real estate market crashed and probably were unable to sell for much less than their asking price of 300k without a short sale. I live in the neighborhood and the home would be perfect for my family but there’s no way I would have been willing to pay the full asking price. I think offering 250k would have been generous given the market and the city’s property valuation. I was hoping the home would somehow be back on the market in a few years when I’ll have the financial resources to offer what it’s worth, but it sounds like a lovely home might be torn down and turned into Lakeview’s sewer and parking lot. How completely depressing.

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