OWOSSO – Owosso Public Schools is looking to sell the old Owosso Middle School.
Beginning in the 2021-2022 school year, Owosso students in grades six through eight attended Owosso New Campus Middle School in grades 6 through 12 on North Street, after district voters approved a bond to establish the campus in 2017. The property of the former college, 219 N. Water St., is currently vacant.
The district is currently accepting bids for the approximately 122,000 square foot property that was built in 1928. All bids are due by 2 p.m. July 5. The Request for Proposal (RFP) can be viewed on the PAHO website.
According to the RFP, “The primary objective of the District in submitting this RFP is to sell the College and designated property to a third party in a manner for uses consistent with the best interests of the District and the ratepayers of the district”.
The district is looking for the third-party proposal that “ideally makes the highest bid and has the plan for the future use of the building that is most beneficial to the district,” according to the RFP.
Justin Horvath, president and CEO of Shiawassee Economic Development Partnership, said his organization actively promotes the bidding opportunity, engaging with real estate developers to submit proposals.
“The district would like to see the property repurposed for more housing development, or even some type of mixed-use development with residential and commercial developments,” Horvath said. “We’ve spoken to over a dozen people so far.”
Horvath said the property provides many opportunities for third parties.
“This is a great location, right in downtown Owosso on the river. There is a river trail for biking, walking and running; Curwood Castle Park across the river; a canoe/kayak boat launch to be installed later this summer; and the ability to walk downtown among other ‘top notch’ amenities,” he said.
The building also has a kitchen that served about 700 students and an auditorium with a capacity of 800 seats.
Horvath said OPS previously had a developer in place, Troy-based Community Housing Network, but the deal fell through largely because of an issue with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) which designated the property as a flood risk.
Horvath said the property’s designation had been lifted, but Community Housing had already pulled out of the deal.
At the May 23 OPS school board meeting, the board briefly discussed selling the facility. Two schools of thought seemed to emerge: the need for council to ensure that the building is redeveloped in a way that benefits the community; and the council’s interest in selling the property as soon as possible.
“We are the stewards of the building,” Secretary Marlene Webster said. “We don’t want it to become an eyesore or empty; we need to see a plan for how the building is going to be used in a meaningful way.
Administrator Olga Quick agreed with Webster’s sentiment. Administrator Adam Easlick and Treasurer Sara Keyes both expressed their desire for the district to sell the property quickly.
“We are spending (taxpayer) money to maintain this building and the sooner we get it off our books the better,” Easlick said.
“(The property) becomes a nuisance to police trying to keep it closed, while teenagers try to use it as a playground,” Keyes said.