The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

July 8, 2013

To revive or raze: Sandstone grapples with empty icon

(Continued)

"We looked at what that would cost the individual property owner and how much we would have to raise the levy just to pay the heat bill, let alone everything else that would need to be done," said Griffith. "It would have been such an incredible investment... Everybody would love to see it reused, but the EDA said realistically we can't be the people to do it."

"There are always people for whom money is no object," he said. "Then there are people who don't want to spend, who say taxes are too high. The majority are in the middle looking for a reasonable answer. Money is where what you want to do and what you can do separate."

The same study determined that there was little or no demand in the city for additional commercial space or rental housing, two potential money generators for the old school. "No one surveyed believed that there is or will be a shortage of office space in the near future," read the report.

When it comes to restoring an old, empty building, finding a substantial, viable use is perhaps most important step, said Berg of the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota. It helps in the complicated task of raising money for the project. "Buildings are preserved if they are well loved and used. They need a use, preferably one that is sustainable enough to cover its own costs."

The failed efforts to find such a use for the old school have been hard on Sandstone and have jaded people a bit on the subject. "A small town has a fragile psyche," said Griffith. "People wonder, why doesn't a Target open here? When you see positive things happening, it improves everyone's attitude. It can be a spiral downward if nothing ever happens."

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