Fairfield Ledger

Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Mar 24, 2018

Breathing life into former school

Proposals sought to reuse Libertyville Elementary School
By Andy Hallman, Ledger news editor | Jan 03, 2018
Photo by: ANDY HALLMAN/Ledger photo From left, Libertyville Mayor Rod Nelson, Fairfield school board president Warren Schaefer, school superintendent Laurie Noll and Fairfield Economic Development Association’s executive director Joshua Laraby meet to discuss the future of the Libertyville Elementary School building.

Libertyville Elementary School has sat vacant ever since it shut its doors for the final time in May, but school officials and the city council hope that will change soon.

They’ve put their heads together in an effort to market the school to a developer who can find a new use for it. The group has created a request for proposal, detailing what the building has to offer, and the kind of things the school and city want to accomplish by selling it.


Deadline of Jan. 24

The group issued its request for proposal on Dec. 15. It’s planning an open house of the building from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Jan. 10. The deadline to submit proposals is 5 p.m. Jan. 24. The group will interview firms Jan. 26, and will select a proposal Jan. 30.

Libertyville Mayor Rod Nelson said the city and school board began talking last academic year about the future of the building, once the board decided to close the school. They eventually created a committee to study the issue.

“Our goal is to find an economic driver,” Nelson said. “We lost the school, and that was an economic driver for the town. That makes it tough for the town to keep its tax base up.”


$2,000 monthly upkeep

Fairfield schools superintendent Laurie Noll said the district wants to bring life back into the building, especially something that could generate revenue to the city. She said the district spends about $2,000 a month on the building to heat and insure it.

Nelson said the council’s goal is to make sure the building is used. Barring that, it will try to find a use for the green space if the building has to be demolished.

Everyone involved in the project said demolishing the building is not their first choice, and they hope that can be averted.

Fairfield school board president Warren Schaefer said if no proposals come back by Jan. 24, the district would likely demolish the building or give it to the city. Either way, the issue will come before the Libertyville building committee.


Mixed emotions among residents

Nelson said there are mixed emotions among Libertyville residents about what to do with the building, but all agreed they don’t want it to be empty.

“Several residents like the idea of an open gym, but who’s going to pay the light bill?” he said.

Nelson said the city wants to follow the successes of other repurposed buildings, and to avoid the problems that Lockridge has faced when it inherited a building after its school closed.

“Lockridge has struggled with vandalism to its building,” he said. “Lockridge had a multistory building that didn’t meet codes. It’s a good thing Libertyville’s building is one story.”

Pleasant Plain was given a building when its school closed, too. That one is also two stories. Libertyville’s building is fairly new compared to the others that have closed. About 10,000 square feet of classroom, kitchen and office space was built in 1971, and another 4,300 square feet were added in 1996. Only the gymnasium is older than 1971. The total building is 16,625 square feet.

Fairfield Economic Development Association executive director Joshua Laraby said Libertyville has the advantage of being wired for fiber optics.

Just like the city and school, FEDA’s goal is for someone to buy the building and turn it into something that will help the town and surrounding area.

The request for proposal says, “Special consideration will be given to developers, businesses, individuals or nonprofit groups with a vision that promotes economic vitality and quality of life. Priority attention will be given to light manufacturing, housing, health care and education enterprises.”

The lot the school sits on is 2.37 acres and includes a parking lot, playground and basketball court. The RFP was a joint effort between Laraby and Pathfinders Resource Conservation & Development’s executive director Anna Bruen.

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.