The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

July 8, 2013

To revive or raze: Sandstone grapples with empty icon


Griffith is being careful with the arrangement with Allen, meticulously checking the paperwork to make sure it's clear who gets what when and what is required of whom. Allen won't actually gain possession of the school until he's remediated the asbestos and completed studies on lead and mold removal, signed contracts for the work, and shown he can pay for the processes.

Once he crosses the finish line, the city is prepared to give him the bulk of the insurance settlement it will receive related to the copper theft, as much as $100,000. "We can't collect on the insurance until we demolish or have the remediation done," said Griffith.

"We are trying to create the opportunity for something to happen," he said. "We can only go so far." He acknowledged that the deal could still fall apart. "It's not done until it's done."

Given Allen's religious affiliation, Kester thinks larger forces may be on his side. "If God is in his plans, then it will be done and made worthwhile," he said. "A lot of people want to save the building. And then they have to come up with the money. But nobody wants to do that. Jack is the first one who has met the challenge and wants to do it. With the Lord on his side it can happen."

Meanwhile, inside the school, in the enormous chute where the stairway used to be, Allen spoke with a gleam in his eye. "We will sandblast all of it," he said. "We're ready. We're working with a window company to put in all new windows. We'll do the electrical and the plumbing. We're going to clean the whole building out."

"The theory is we need to do it right because we're not going to do it again," he said. "With a project of this size, as we're bringing it around and bringing people into it, we want to know the community is happy with what we've done."

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