The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

July 8, 2013

To revive or raze: Sandstone grapples with empty icon

(Continued)

Irene Sandell, who lives near the school and was Sandstone's librarian for more than a decade, thinks the best use for the building would have been as city hall. "We don't have a decent city hall," she said. "It would have been nice, plenty of room for parking, centrally located. The stone in this building would stand forever."

She remembers that when Rostamkhani first bought the school, there was a lot of buzz and anticipation. "He had a public meeting and wanted public input and we got pretty excited. He talked about little shops and up on the upper floors having apartments and lofts. It sounded pretty grandiose."

Now, Sandell wonders whether Allen can pull off such a massive project. "We've been through it a couple of times and nothing happened," she said. "I wonder if energy is better spent elsewhere."

"To redo it for sentimental value, I don't feel the sentiment toward it to spend money on it," said Sandstone city council member Phil Kester, who graduated from the old school. "It's a beautiful building and a humungous bill to do anything with it. There is mold and everything else. Lead based paint all over. You have nothing but a bunch of work there."

"In the long run, I really don't see the value to it," said Kester, who has rehabbed old houses all over town. "Just to put millions into it, you would be better off starting from scratch... I'm not a sentimental person."

Matters were made to seem more hopeless recently, when a team of thieves -- Griffith calls them "the professionals" -- broke into the school in the middle of the night and stole a load of copper wires and pipes, disturbing asbestos tiles in the process. The city, responsible for the building, had to post hazard placards. But it was also able to submit an insurance claim, which strangely could prove a good thing for the city and Allen.

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