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River Falls Academy bids: Strike one

Developers passed on bidding for the River Falls Academy. But now they have more time. (River Falls Journal photo by Phil Pfuehler.)

Hopes of finding a developer to claim all or part of the historic River Falls Academy building faded as the Jan. 30 bidding deadline passed without any bidding.

But after a late inquiry from a Minneapolis developer that apparently just learned about the Academy and the bidding, River Falls School Superintendent Jamie Benson said the bidding deadline was extended for six weeks until March 12.

“The extension was caused because of the interest by the Minneapolis firm, but the bidding process is open to anyone, not just that firm,” Benson said Tuesday.

The River Falls Academy is on a site where a school building has stood since the early 1880s. The current building dates from 1927, with major additions made in 1949 and 1990.

In a 2011 referendum, school district voters soundly rejected spending $3,370,000 to modernize the newer sections and close off the original building.

Benson called the Academy a “financial sieve” that’s not “cost-effect for a school district to maintain.”

He said just recently almost $20,000 was spent on urgent and unforeseen repairs for the building’s electrical problems.

Three bidding options were given to potential bidders: 1) Buy the 1927 part and let the school district keep owning the newer parts; 2) Buy the entire site, building and land, and lease back the newer parts to the district for educational uses; 3) Buy the entire site without any school district leasing.

Benson said 100 direct mailings about the Academy bidding were mailed to potential Minnesota and Wisconsin developers. The district got a few inquiries but no bids by the Jan. 30 bid deadline.

For more on this story, please see the Feb. 6 print edition of the River Falls Journal.