HORICON — Superintendent Rich Appel said he had good news for Horicon residents at the school board’s facilities and finance committee meeting Wednesday.
Appel said the school district has two proposals to purchase the soon-to-be-vacated Van Brunt Elementary School, its gymnasium and land to the south. The bids are from The Commonwealth Companies and Gorman & Company.
“Both of these are well-established businesses who have experience in repurposing old buildings into office space, apartments and living spaces,” Appel said.
Van Brunt was originally constructed in 1921, with additions in 1954, 1966 and 1992. Renovations to the building occurred in 2004. The school, attached gym and the land to the south of it occupy 4.83 acres.
In April, voters passed a $26.52 million referendum for infrastructure improvements and the construction of a new elementary school attached to the junior/senior high school.
Commonwealth is proposing 40 apartments, with a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units.
“They have been very proactive in reaching out to Moraine Park, John Deere and Horicon Bank,” Appel said. “They have incorporated into their plan an area called an incubator that would provide fabrication and machinery courses that could provide the residents of Horicon with greater access to job training. They have also tied into this is the need for day care space within the community.”
Gorman & Company is proposing 58 apartments, made up of one-, two- and three-bedroom units.
“Their twist on the project is that they are looking to convert the gym space into larger two-story townhouse units,” Appel said.
The Commonwealth Companies has offered $1.6 million to purchase the property. Gorman & Company has offered $500,000. Both companies have provided earnest money.
Appel said the district has listened to community interests in the proposed use of the Van Brunt property. To the extent practical, it will attempt to honor the desires of neighborhood property owners with regard to a compatible redevelopment of the property. Specifically, it is desired that the property be placed on the tax roll.
Proposers provided a detailed description of their vision regarding the use of the property and how the vision and proposed use will enhance, blend in and strengthen the neighborhood.
The property is currently zoned R-1 single family residential. The school district plans to meet with the city to get the property rezoned as quickly as possible.
The school building is being sold “as is.” All items and equipment not attached to the structure will be removed by August 2020. The district specifically made no representations regarding environmental issues, including, but not limited to, the presence of asbestos.
A special board of education meeting will be held Monday in room 239 of Van Brunt. The companies will participate in an interview process to explain and support their written proposal through a 45-minute question-and-answer forum. Gorman & Company will be interviewed at 6 p.m. and The Commonwealth Companies will be interviewed at 7 p.m.
“We are really fortunate to have so much interest in the school property,” Appel said. “The revenue generated can be put into other projects.”