The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

July 8, 2013

To revive or raze: Sandstone grapples with empty icon

(Continued)

"If we can't find a use this summer," he said, "we will have to plan next winter to take it down."

The building has a long, deep history in Sandstone and many people are attached to it, even if they don't quite know what to do with it.

From any table inside Kitty's Corner Cafe, the old school takes up much of the view from the windows. "We have to save it," said diner Lois Langerud, who attended for all twelve grades. "It's the only pretty building in town."

"It's just a building," said waitress Belinda Woyak, who suggested turning it into a juvenile jail. "It's a shame to have something like that be destroyed. It's a shame to have it sitting there, too."

Noting that other towns have put restaurants and other businesses into their empty schools, she said, "It's just this town. They don't want to spend the money."

"All kinds of people step up to say, 'I want the building,'" said Griffith. "But they have no money or no experience... Any building like this you have to find a tenant who can keep the lights on." He is reservedly optimistic about Jack Allen. "Jack had a realistic plan. It makes sense to remake part of it as a school. It was built as a school."

The Harvest Christian principal is confident he can raise the necessary $3 million for rehabilitation, which he estimates will take two years. He said half the money will come from private donations and half from various state, federal or foundation grants.

"This building is loved by the community," said Allen, who also runs a Bible camp on nearby Grindstone Lake and has experience rehabbing old houses. "We've bought homes that were in worse shape."

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