The Brainerd School Board Monday decided to wait on committing to a location for the Early Childhood Family Education program until all options are explored.
The ECFE is located at the East Brainerd Mall and the school district has been negotiating with Oppidan, Inc., which has a purchase agreement with the owners of the mall and has plans to renovate the mall.
Oppidan has also offered 20,000 square feet in the renovated mall for the school district to lease. Currently the district leases 8,000 square feet in the mall.
The school board has made no counter offer to Oppidan.
Paul Bloom, Brainerd Community Education director, recommended the school board wait until all options -- including the possible use of other facilities elsewhere in the area -- are settled before making a final decision.
"Our idea is to take a look at all the possibilities available and select the best one," Bloom said.
Roland Voeller, who with his wife owns Birgit's Jewelers in the East Brainerd Mall, told the school board he would like to see the school district look elsewhere for space.
"I think I'm speaking on behalf of the other business owners when I say we want the mall to stay a retail center, not a school center," Voeller said.
With the exception of J.C. Penney, which has two years remaining on the lease at the mall, no business has been guaranteed space in the renovated East Brainerd Mall.
Oppidan's proposal to the district would have the 20,000 square feet of school space be built between a new Cub Foods, which would fill the space vacated by Montgomery Ward, and J.C. Penney.
Though the school space would be located behind the retail businesses, a front entrance would be made for the school.
In earlier plans, Oppidan had the area proposed for the ECFE as parking spaces.
Oppidan's proposal for 20,000 square feet was still viewed by the board as ideal, and school board members were open for suggestions on other spaces for the ECFE.
"If anyone knows of any place that has 20,000 square feet and meets our code requirements, please share them with Paul (Bloom)," said board member Janet Moran. "If we don't go with Oppidan, we need to find another place."
Oppidan Inc., a merchant development company based in Minnetonka, has entered into a purchase agreement to buy the mall and, pending a public hearing and final city council approval of Oppidan's tax-increment financing request, will proceed with a $12,125,000 redevelopment project this spring.
Oppidan has also request about $2.5 million over 15 years in tax-increment financing from the city of Brainerd.
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