School district encouraged by new plan for Duluth Central siteKerry Leider, property manager for the district, said he was happy with the new map that boosts the developable acres by 16 acres — 43 as business park and 12 as urban residential.
By: Mike Creger, Duluth News Tribune
The good news for Duluth city planners and the school district Thursday night was that there was little objection to a modified land use plan for the former Central High School site.
“It’s what I expected,” said Keith Hamre, the interim head of the city’s planning division. There hadn’t been any comments on the new map released before the public meeting Thursday.
It’s the result of the school district objecting in January to the city’s original land use plan for the site. It asked for time to redraw the lines to allow more of the 77-acre site to be developed.
Kerry Leider, property manager for the district, said he was happy with the new map that boosts the developable acres by 16 acres — 43 as business park and 12 as urban residential.
“We’ve ID’d places that are developable,” Leider said.
Hamre and Leider agreed that getting the land use plan set by next month will help the district market the site.
Leider said there has been interest from developers in the site but nothing solid. Under the long-range plan that called for closing the high school and selling the property, the district expected to get $13.7 million.
“Questions about land use have been an inhibiter,” Leider said.
Hamre expects the Planning Commission to take up the new plan May 8 and recommend it to the City Council for its meeting May 29. The School Board will meet to discuss the plan May 15.
Specific zoning inside the land-use plan will come over the summer, which, Hamre said, could be done in coordination with a buyer of the property. The city is in the process of setting up new zoning areas across the city.
Leider said it’s probable that the site will be sold in pieces depending on developers.
There are still vociferous objections to how the Central site has been handled and to the school district’s long-range facilities plan in general.
A handful of people attended the meeting at City Hall. Most were neighbors in the Blackman Avenue area just west of the site.
People there have been upset with increased traffic on the street that serves as a secondary access to the site. The school district permanently blocked the main road to the school off Central Entrance over the winter to avoid plowing expenses and to restrict access by potential vandals, Leider said. He said the district will consider placing a gate at the entrance that would allow controlled access.
Despite being closed, there remains activity at the Central site. The school uses some of the athletic fields and there is a maintenance facility on the site.
One resident brought up a popular rumor about the site, that it could become the home to a casino. Hamre said the business park classification would not allow for such a use. It’s a protection city planners were careful with after public discussions last year, Hamre said.
Any development on the site will still have to go through the regular zoning allowance process when specific projects arise.