DULUTH — School district officials are confident they will soon sell Central High School, which was closed in 2011.
According to Greg Follmer, its listing realtor, the neighborhood has three “dedicated interested parties” vying for ownership at 800 E. Central Entrance. For years, the district has been trying to sell about 50 acres of land it owns above downtown Duluth.
There is no deadline, self-imposed or not, for the district to sell the property, but Follmer told the News Tribune he hopes to hold a sale within the next 30 days. The listing price for the property is approximately $7.9 million.
“We don’t currently have any buyers selected, but we have very strong interest,” Follmer said Wednesday. “We’re having meetings quickly right now to figure out who the next buyer would be.”
Superintendent John Magas was equally optimistic.
“Given that there are several interested parties and they seem very interested, I am quite confident that things will materialize in the near future,” he said.
Each of the three suitors are considering residential development of some scale, Follmer said.
“Some of them do residential primarily, and some of them are looking at it for residential, commercial and other opportunities that come up, et cetera,” he said.
But Duluth public schools have already taken this route.
In 2015, a $10 million deal with Harbor Bay Real Estate Advisors fell through due to “extraordinary” utility, demolition and roadwork costs. In 2016, school board members narrowly voted against a $14.2 million bid from Duluth Edison charter schools.
And, last month, Saturday Properties, based in St. Louis Park, Minn., backed out of a sale, citing market conditions and “city expectations.”
So what’s different this time around?
Magas said he couldn’t comment on that, but Follmer said he doesn’t believe there’s a material difference between Saturday Properties’ offer and the alleged current interest.
“I think, you know, the previous buyer’s problems were theirs, and I don’t get the same fear factor from any of these people who were… who came in with the Saturday real estate group. “, said Follmer. “They worked really hard to try to get to the finish line, and they just had, you know, a different way of thinking about how they make their investment than other people.”
City development agreement, district under construction
Meanwhile, school district and city officials are working on a contract that would set the stage for a new development at Central High School.
The city’s planning commission approved a site landfill plan in November to create a 22-acre site on the northwest corner of the property that currently houses the district’s print shop and maintenance facility. The district would keep this segment and plan to sell the rest of the property to a developer.
Duluth city councilors were scheduled to consider a development agreement on Monday that would spell out further obligations for the city and the school district, but school leaders have asked that this be moved to a May 9 council meeting.
School district spokeswoman Adelle Wellens said neither district leaders nor district attorneys reviewed the deal before it was put on the board’s agenda.
The agreement, at least as prepared for Monday’s meeting, also calls for the school district to grant an easement that would allow the public to continue to use a trail that crosses the property and set aside some l money to demolish the existing high school building.
You can reach Joe Bowen at 218-720-4172 or