It's a proposal that could create a centralized artisan community in Brainerd, with affordable living and working spaces for artists, actors, painters, sculptors and dancers and their families, all located within Franklin Junior High School.
The Brainerd School District Building Committee Friday listened to a presentation by Stacey L. Mickelson, director of government relations for Artspace Projects Inc., a Minneapolis-based nonprofit real estate development company for the arts, on a proposal for the future of the Franklin school building.
No action was taken at the committee meeting on the proposal.
Artspace has completed 15 multi-million dollar renovation projects throughout the country and is working on several more, projects where older buildings are renovated into artist lofts and performing arts centers.
Artspace's proposal is to create 24 living and working spaces for artists within the Franklin school building. In addition, the rest of the building could be used as administrative space for area arts organizations, artist studio-only space, commercial space, galleries, tenant storage areas and other uses that the community would want. Portions of the school could be leased back to the school district for use, such as the auditorium and gymnasium. Artspace is currently working on the renovation of the Minnesota Shubert Center in Minneapolis and the Hotel Kaddatz in Fergus Falls, among other projects.
Mickelson said the creation of an arts facility in Brainerd not only benefits the artists, who feed off of each other's creative energies when they live and work in the same environment, but it is beneficial to the community and neighborhood as well. Often, coffee shops, wine bars, jazz clubs or other similar businesses sprout up around such art centers, creating an arts district.
Artspace's proposal, which has yet to be worked out between the developer and the school district, would call for a 2-year exclusive development rights agreement with the option of extending the rights for an additional year. During those two years, Artspace would apply for predevelopment grant money from various foundations in order to conduct a market study and feasibility study to ensure that such a project would be supported by the community.
Mickelson said Washington Studios in Duluth was a $7.1 million renovation project that involved a former school, similar to the Franklin school project. In that project, 39 units of artisan work and living space were created. The building also has two gymnasiums, a playground and a pool. The pool, he said, is leased back to the school district.
If the Franklin project seems to be a successful venture, based on the studies, then Artspace would purchase the building and begin renovations in 2006. Mickelson said Artspace is not interested in purchasing the 16 acres of land adjacent to the school, which includes Harvey Shew Field.
Mickelson said based on preliminary analysis, Artspace anticipates a purchase price for the building to be between $900,000 and $1.5 million.
Details on a contract agreement have yet to be worked out. Mickelson's proposal to the committee appeared to have met with a favorable response by committee members.
"This is just a fabulous project," said Brainerd School Board member Ruth Gmeinder.
In other business, the Building Committee heard an update on Brainerd High School construction. Widseth Smith and Nolting will continue to work with school district staff members during the next few weeks to determine what renovations will be completed during the project, which will be fully completed in stages by 2004. About 77 new parking spaces, or 50 percent more parking, have been added at the high school this summer. The new parking area north of the high school has two different levels for water drainage and includes retention ponds within part of the construction design. About two-thirds of the asphalt was removed from the lower parking area located southeast of Mississippi Horizons and recycled for use for the new parking lot, said Kevin Donnay. A portion of the lower parking area will be seeded and is planned to become future ninth-grade athletic fields.
The Curriculum/Student Activities Committee met Friday and approved cooperative agreements for the following sports with the following school districts: Boys' hockey with Pierz and Pequot Lakes school districts, girls' hockey and boys' soccer with the Pillager School District, and adaptive hockey with the Greenway School District in Coleraine.
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