St. Cloud City Council unanimously approved Monday acquiring the former Technical High School for $1 from St. Cloud school district.
The council also approved on separate 5-1 votes authorizing the city to enter into an agreement with JLG Architects and HMA Architects for $700,000 and an agreement with R.A. Morton & Associates for construction management services for $400,000.
Council member Paul Brandmire was absent Monday. Council member George Hontos voted against the motions to hire the architect and construction management firms, citing concerns about the city’s process regarding Mayor Dave Kleis’s proposal to move City Hall to the renovated historic parts of Technical High School.
“I am not for or against this project,” Hontos said, stating he feels like the city administration has been working on this project for months and has withheld information from council members.
“I really feel like the train has left the station and I’m standing on the platform,” Hontos said. “I’m not comfortable approving something without having a whole bunch of questions asked.”
Kleis responded that the city was working with a potential developer for months but that developer — Plymouth-based Dominium — backed out because the anticipated redevelopment costs were too high.
Kleis said the city then resurrected a proposal first talked about 15 or so years ago to move City Hall into the former Technical High School. Kleis announced the plans to the public in mid-September.
The plan would move city offices to the historic 1917 and 1938 parts of the building; the later additions would be razed for green space or other development possibilities.
The council will need to approve the final plans before the renovation begins. Kleis anticipates the renovation and demolition costs to be between $6 million and $9 million.
Hontos also questioned at what cost would the city walk away from redevelopment plans if there are unforeseen costs. Kleis said he can’t answer a hypothetical and insisted he is hoping the redevelopment is less than $9 million.
The city would also use money from the sales of the current City Hall and commercial land on Minnesota Highway 23 — property the school district used for its media services building — to help cover renovation costs.
The council members, with the exception of Hontos, voiced support for the proposal to move City Hall to the former Tech.
“This is what I’d hoped for from the beginning,” said council member Carol Lewis.
Council member Dave Masters said he has heard from residents who are excited about the proposal. Council member Mike Conway agreed.
“This is probably one of the better outcomes that building could have,” Conway said.
Council member Steve Laraway said it makes sense for City Hall to occupy the former Tech, which is adjacent to Eastman Park — the site of Summertime by George! and popular trails.
“Clearly the center of St. Cloud revolves around Lake George,” Laraway said.
St. Cloud school board unanimously approved Oct. 2 transferring Tech and the district’s former media services building to the city.
When announcing the plan, Kleis said he hoped the renovations are completed and the city can move its offices to the building next spring. He also said a future phase of the redevelopment could be a hockey arena downtown.
Last month, the city and St. Cloud-based developer Inventure Properties signed an agreement renewing 2015 plans that included Inventure redeveloping City Hall; the council will need to approve final plans before redevelopment begins.