What Happens To The Elementary School Property?

I’ve had a number of people ask me what will happen with the old elementary school property and my answer is that the City will sell the property.  The City is not a developer in the sense that we have money to invest in different ventures and we always look to those that are developers.

Recently the City Council took action to advertise the old elementary school for sale through a “Request for Proposals” process.  What this means is individuals and firms interested in the property can submit proposals to the City for consideration.  The proposals will include what the individuals or firms want to do with the property and what they will pay for it.  There are a couple of twists and quirks to this process that need to be clarified to fully understand what will happen.

First, the City is in this case is actually the City Economic Development Authority (EDA).  Cities exist to provide specific services to their Citizens and in cases where development is concerned, the State and Federal Governments ask that a different authority is established to handle this development.  In some cases, the EDA could act as the developer buying and developing property, but in most cases the EDA acts as a conduit to provide State and Federal funds for private developers.  The City has two loan pools that were set up with this type of activity in mind.  The Morris EDA is governed by the same individuals as the City Council, but they follow different rules, regulations and requirements.

Second, the 17.75 acres of the old elementary school land has been placed in a Tax Increment Financing District (TIF).  This is an economic development tool that is allowed by the State of Minnesota to capture the new taxes generated by new development in the District to help with the costs of the new development.  Things like buying the land, clearing it of buildings, putting in things that will be used for the new building like water, sewer, drainage, roads and parking spaces.  Also, in the case of the old elementary school, we took action to capture new taxes on two other TIF Districts in Morris that will help pay for almost all of the cost of removing the old elementary school building.

Finally, the process of receiving and reviewing proposals is slightly different than the normal City Council process.  When looking at potential building development projects, there may be a need to negotiate and discuss agreements, assistance, prices, and other aspects of the project.  The EDA is not required to take the highest bidder for the land sale.  There may be other things that are more important like the value of the building project.  This process of reviewing and possibly negotiating is even more important when looking at a TIF District.

From time to time the question is asked about public input into the development of the old elementary school property.  There will be a time to present potential development proposals, but this property has been studied for a number of years now.  The property is zoned RM – Multiple Family Residence which will guide the uses of the property.  Single and two-family homes, townhouses, duplexes, apartment buildings and assisted living facilities will all be allowable uses, as long as the current rules are followed.

The EDA will receive and review proposals.  They will then bring them forward to the public for a hearing to review them publicly.  Then the EDA will make a decision what to do with the property.