Central High School sees increased interest from potential buyers
The 77-acre site with a hilltop view of Lake Superior has been on the market for more than seven years.
The Duluth school district recently sold a parcel of land along Getchell Road in Hermantown between Morris Thomas and Hermantown roads. The parcel sold for $50,000 to the neighboring landowners.
Two major parcels of land still in the possession of the Duluth school district are Central High School and 11 acres adjacent to Hartley Nature Center. The Hartley lots are currently under contract. Though the sale price will not be made public until the district closes on a sale, the lots are listed at $495,000 by Greg Follmer Commercial Real Estate.
Central High School, which is currently listed at $7.9 million, has seen a lot of interest as of late, according to commercial broker Greg Follmer.
“Right now we have had quite a bit of decent activity and we've had some good, strong national developers taking a look at the site,” he said. “I don't have anything definitive done yet, but we are getting good action and we are happy about that action.”
Follmer’s property update letter to the board in September said there have been inquiries and continued follow-up as well as discussions that have been ongoing with several developers and potential purchasers. The letter also said there has been continued interest from a national development company, which has gone as far as researching the cost of road improvements and utility infrastructure. That company also expressed concern with those costs.
“The real issue isn’t the guy that can spend whatever it costs,” Follmer said. “The real issue has to do with what that person is going to be able to do with it when they are done and what type of cost is it going to take them to develop the site properly, and then comparing that with what they can do in this market.”
Follmer said in addition to the interest by private buyers, two municipal entities have also expressed interest in the property to use themselves, though they have not asked for a property tour.
“The interest is some mid-level interest. It could become more, but the problem with municipal groups being interested is the fact that their internal process also takes a mountain of time,” Follmer said. “Our hope is that we run into a private party fast. We can do business quicker with them and that would be good.”
Follmer would not say who the interested entities are, though Kate Van Daele, public information officer for the city of Duluth, told the News Tribune that none of the Duluth municipal entities was interested in purchasing Central High School.
The 77-acre site with a hilltop view of Lake Superior has been on the market for more than seven years. It once was listed for sale at a price of $13.7 million, but in 2015 the board accepted a $10 million offer from Harbor Bay Real Estate Advisors. That deal fell through because of the expected costs of preparing the site. A $14.2 million offer the next year that would have rebirthed the building as a high school for Duluth Edison Charter Schools was turned down as the board stuck to a policy prohibiting it from selling school buildings to schools that serve the same age range.
“Because of that kind of unique buying pool we’re looking for — not only someone who can purchase it but develop it properly — it just takes us more time to get to that person eventually,” Follmer said. “You want to see them in the first 30 days, obviously, but the nature of these sites, it just takes a lot of time.”