Residents gathered in recent months to consider possible uses for the now-closed Tuttle Community School building at 1042 18th Ave. SE. At meetings headed by Urban Design Lab for Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS), attendees were asked to brainstorm ideas.
Using that feedback and the ideas of community-member “site asset groups” (SAG) currently being formed, MPS hopes to present a plan this spring to the School Board for the reuse of all 12 of its properties that are currently vacant, said Steve Liss, chief operations officer for MPS, during an interview in mid-March.
Liss acknowledged the Southeast Como community’s clear preference to bring another educational institution to Tuttle. The favored idea at the brainstorming session included a school serving pre-kindergarten through 8th grade, according to a note in the Southeast Como Improvement Association’s (SECIA) February newsletter. Second and third preferences were for a smaller K–8 school combined with a community center, or a larger community center, if no school options are possible. A community center might include day care and adult education, among other services.
The University of Minnesota is also looking at possible uses for the school “consistent with the community’s objectives: to preserve the building for an educational purpose,” said Jan Morlock, director of community relations for the Twin Cities campus. “I’ve heard loud and clear that the optimal use would be an educational use of that building that keeps [it] lively,” she said.
Katie Fournier, president of the Southeast Minneapolis Council on Learning, which has been active in volunteering at Tuttle and Pratt Schools, agreed, saying it was important to have “activities that have people-traffic in and out of the building, to keep it as an active place.”
The university completed a forensic study of the building in January, to gauge its structural condition. “The bones of it are really good,” Morlock said. The university has talked with MPS, which she said has been “very open to potential uses by the university.” One possible use would be to subcontract to a child care operation, related to but separate from the university’s own program, but the talks haven’t been specific about details and terms.
In March, the district was working to create site asset groups (SAG), made up of 10–15 community members, for each the 12 properties currently vacant, including Tuttle, said Liss. While the SAG members had not been named by mid-March, Liss said the community members would be “our link to the community.” Each SAG will review the ideas for reuse and see what can realistically be developed, given the real estate market and where money is available to support potential projects, he said.
For seven of the vacant buildings, including Tuttle, MPS and consultants Urban Design Lab met early in March to kick off the current stage of the process and talk about challenges of real estate and development market.
Sometime this spring, the district hopes to have a plan for the 12 properties, on which the School Board would vote, said Liss. Some property development may take longer than others, depending on the nature of the project, he said; some could take as long as 3–5 years.
Tuttle, however, could possibly be redeveloped sooner, especially if the university goes through with plans to use some of the building for childcare. Liss, like Morlock, said that MPS and the university have been talking about redevelopment, but that none of the talks have been formalized.
Redevelopment depends largely on the involvement of an entity able to support a project. For a community center, for example, “there needs to be some group or entity out there to support it,” said Liss. MPS “cannot afford to subsidize community projects,” he said, adding that the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is not interested in taking over vacant MPS facilities.
He said that MPS has talked to the city about taking over and developing properties, and that the district is open to neighborhood involvement, as well.
“We would be happy to work with neighborhoods in kicking off some development,” said Liss, “but we can’t sustain those kinds of developments.”
For more information about MPS’ facilities reuse plan, visit the MPS website.