ST. CLOUD – The fate of the 104-year-old former Technical High School — a question that’s been lingering since students last walked the hallways in May 2019 — should be sealed within the next month.
St. Cloud officials plan to move City Hall to the historic 1917 and 1938 sections of the building, which features local granite and sits atop a gently sloping hill that leads to Lake George, the site of winter ice skating and summer concerts.
But before they make the move, officials must reconcile plans for the current City Hall, which sits at a prominent corner in downtown St. Cloud.
City staff plan to ask the council on March 22 to approve bids for demolition and renovation at Tech, as well as redevelopment plans for City Hall.
“It’s a push and pull,” said Matt Glaesman, community development director, who said proceeds from the sale of City Hall will be used to help pay for the estimated $9 million project to renovate Tech.
The city’s pitch for developer submissions was open-ended, Glaesman said. The city will consider proposals for residential or office use but expects storefronts on the first floor to fit with the downtown feel.
The district “wanted to do what was right for the neighborhood,” in handing the old Tech High School; its new entrance is seen in a proposed rendering.
The responsibility to redevelop Tech landed at the city’s feet after months of angst from Lake George Neighborhood residents and others who wanted to both preserve the historic building and make sure the site didn’t become a strip mall or gas station.
Al Dahlgren, a school board member and chair of the board finance committee, said the district no longer needed the building after it built a new $104.5 million Tech on the south side of the city. The district likely wouldn’t have made money selling the property due to high demolition and redevelopment costs for the purchaser, Dahlgren said. Most important, the school district doesn’t have the same redevelopment tools as the city.
“We wanted to do what was right for the neighborhood,” Dahlgren said. “We didn’t want to turn around and say we’re going to sell it to the highest bidder. We wanted something good to go in there.”
The city courted private developers to turn the building into housing but the only company to respond to a request for qualifications, Plymouth-based Dominium, backed out because the anticipated costs of redevelopment were too high.
So the city moved to Plan B: moving City Hall to the school site with Grand Forks, N.D.,-based JLG Architects at the helm.
Design plans call for the demolition of the entire western academic building, which is connected to the historic sections by skyways and tunnels. That space will become a parking lot, with the building’s main entrance on the west side. Tech’s library will become the council chambers and former classrooms will house city offices.
“It was an undertaking, and the process was obviously different than if we were doing a clean sheet design,” said Adam Meyerring, project manager. “In our repurposing of this building, we’re doing our best to make it a very functional city hall. So the city won’t come in there and say, ‘Oh, this is just a quirky building that we repurposed.’ It will be a fully functioning city hall.”
But the structure won’t lose its charm, promised St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis, who said design plans keep the theater intact and feature rows of lockers in the corridors.
“You have a public building that’s got a lot of history. It’s still the people’s building. It still remains a public building,” he said. “And it’s going to look a lot like a school inside.”