Almost four months after granting Cedar Rapids Community School District administrators permission to explore demolishing the site, school board members are one step closer to selling Lincoln Elementary School intact.
Board members are slated to vote at their 5:30 p.m., Monday, Feb. 10 regular meeting on whether or not to schedule a public hearing on the planned sale of the structure and the 1.93 acres it sits on, at 912 18th Ave. SW in Cedar Rapids, to local church Sanctuary Ministries. If approved, the hearing would be scheduled for the board’s Monday, Feb. 24 meeting.
Superintendent Dave Benson in the past commented that his hope was to sell Lincoln rather than raze it. Steve Graham, executive director of business services, said the sale would be positive for the district.
“I think that from a financial perspective we have an ongoing commitment to maintain the facility during the winter months to heat it minimally and maintain the grounds. Those are ongoing costs that if the property is sold would not be a responsibility for the school (district),” he said. “Not having operational costs, that would be a good thing.”
A Sanctuary Ministries representative has made a $105,000 offer for the property, less than the $600,000 appraised value and former $295,000 sale price.
The price drop is due to “the amount of work that needs to be done on the inside” of the building, said Scott Olson, a commercial real estate consultant representing the district in the sale process.
The district has struggled in the past to find a buyer for the site – which is 100 years old, not in use and not in compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act standards – but Olson said interest has increased recently. In fact, the church was one of two organizations – the other being a local nonprofit interested in a senior housing project, Olson said – to make an offer on the Lincoln property.
"(Administrators) decided to pursue this one because it had the potential to close faster than the other offer,” he said.
Olson said that tearing the structure down and selling the land would likely result in a financial loss for the school system.
The purchase agreement between the district and the church, dated Jan. 17, states that Sanctuary Ministries plans to use the site as a “church, education/resource center, community gardens” and to house “youth programs.”
The timeline beyond the schedule of the hearing is still unclear, Graham said. Language in the purchase agreement, which is contingent on approval from the school board and the church’s board of directors, states that the offer is binding if accepted by 4 p.m. Friday, Feb. 28.
The contract also says that Sanctuary Ministries has 60 days from when the contract is accepted to secure funding in order to close on the property by Monday, June 2 or earlier. If the church cannot do so, Olson said plans are to renegotiate an offer with the housing nonprofit organization. He also said individuals from two other groups are interested in touring the space.
The agenda for the Monday, Feb. 10 board meeting also includes a vote to schedule a Monday, Feb. 24 public hearing on the potential sale of three acres of land at 80th St. and Worcester Rd. NW in Cedar Rapids. Graham said that the district purchased 37 acres of land there in July 2011 as a possible school site.
Board documents state that representatives of Linn County have expressed interest in purchasing the land for $52,500 “for construction of a new shop facility for Linn County Conservation Department operations.”
Graham said the sale, if approved, would not preclude the district from building a possible elementary or middle school there.
“It’s a good location for a site,” he said, “but that’s well out there in the future.”