Two more proposals highlighted for Whittier | | Brainerd, Minnesota

Two more proposals highlighted for Whittier

Posted: February 6, 2013 - 10:04pm

Two proposals in consideration for the future of the closed Whittier Elementary School in north Brainerd offer ideas of a chemical dependency treatment program or a science and technology center.

They were not detailed in previous stories because the proposal authors could not be reached for comment.

Whittier closed more than four years ago due to budget constraints. Since, the Whittier Task Force was formed to help bring life back into the building. Members put out a call for proposals on what the space could be used for.

One idea says a science and technology center is the best option for the space.

“I would like to use this idea as a focusing mechanism to further Brainerd as a cultural center,” said Laura Leckband, one of the proposal authors.

Leckband, along with partner Richard Russell, a former director of science, technology, engineering and math at the Detroit Science Center, researched the neighborhood around Whittier and noticed something missing: science.

“There’s not as much of an emphasis on science and technology in elementary school,” said Leckband, who spent more than two decades as an architect before moving into the area a few years ago. “And (kids) won’t learn if it’s not fun. This will be a safe and educational place and it’s just plain fun.”

The Brainerd Lakes Area Science and Technology Center could be used by kids and adults from across the region, she said.

It could be used as a resource for teachers to gather information and bring it back to the classroom, or a hands-on field trip by bringing the kids to the center’s museum, which would feature exhibits on topics like water, space and bugs.

There would be a space for adults to continue education in science and technology.

“Our world is based on science and technology,” Leckband said.

“(The center) would give the kids an understanding that science is about a series of experiments. Ninety percent of them fail, and that’s OK. You learn from it.”

The fourth proposal suggests opening a chemical dependency treatment program. The program could follow the Hazelden treatment, a well known program, said Duane Halvorson of Hugo, who submitted the proposal.

Halvorson lived in Brainerd until he was 12 years old. The retired work force center counselor remains tight-lipped about the details of his proposal, but said he has a local partner in mind that he would turn to should his proposal be chosen.

“It’s a good idea to do it,” Halvorson said of bringing a chemical dependency treatment program into Brainerd. He would look into also partnering with the local hospital.

Bringing in such a center would “whittle away” at any chemical dependency problems in the area, he said.

The other proposals include:

• Northern Pines Mental Health Center — Whittier Elementary Community Center for Health and Wellness: A partnership with The Center, the proposal would provide office space for Northern Pines employees and space for children’s programs and a pre-school daycare center. Classrooms would be used for community education and healthy lifestyle sessions, along with sports/recreational activities and stage productions. There would also be a community garden at the site.

• North Side Neighborhood (prepared by Daniel Thornton) — North Side Community and Athletic Center: The plan calls for an indoor athletic venue for sports for young people. The gym would feature two indoor tennis courts but could also be converted for basketball, volleyball and other sports. Other planned amenities include a fitness center, a fitness studio, a club room for private events and a daycare center. On the exterior of the building, Thornton’s plan calls for open park space, a neighborhood greenhouse, the existing basketball courts and playground and spade for concerts, neighborhood gatherings, an outdoor running track, neighborhood yard sales and art shows.

The Whittier Task Force meets again Feb. 13.

JESSICA LARSEN may be reached at or 855-5859.