The Ladysmith Community Development Committee continued discussion, Thursday, July 23, for developing, financing and renting space in the former Lindoo Avenue elementary school.

The city took over ownership of the property northwest of the intersection of Lindoo Avenue and E. Sixth Street S on June 1, It was purchased from the Ladysmith School District for $1 and a small parcel of city frontage property along Edgewood Avenue at Ladysmith Middle & High School. City officials envision the site being transformed into a blend of workforce housing, community center and park uses.

Two preliminary estimates from the engineering firm Short Elliott Hendrickson show the building portion of the project costing either $693,438 or $850,156. The estimates include planned work on demolition, construction, utilities and fire protection, including a sprinkler system.

The committee voted 3-0 to separate the building into two different projects, separated by a fire wall, with a private developer converting classrooms into residential and the city converting the gymnasium, cafeteria, principal office and possibly an activity room into a community center. They also welcomed developers who might be interested in developing the entire building.

Committee members want to keep the project cost-effective to interest potential developers. They are also seeking Community Development Block Grant and Tax Incremental District revenues to help fund community center development, hoping to generate $1.5 million total through CDBG and TID sources. 

“The residential is going to have to carry a good chunk of it,” committee member Marty Reynolds said. “We need to get a developer who recognizes the value of residential housing in the city.”

City leaders also have identified the surrounding property for recreational uses including a new skate park.

Reynolds cited the need for a park on the city’s heavily residential south side.

“We are obviously going to have to spend some bucks on this,” Reynolds said. “This would give us a park. At Memorial Park, there are people in there all the time. We don’t have that on the south side of the town.”

Restrooms could be added to make a Lindoo playground more user friendly. 

Committee Chairman Brian Groothousen said relocating the skate park from the downtown could have an extra advantage, opening up another area for business development.

“It frees up the area [at the current skatepark on Worden Avenue] if we move the skate park out of the downtown,” Groothousen said.

Municipalities are allowed to seek CDBG funds every other year. As the city’s next biennial CDBG application is earmarked for downtown street projects next year, the city has asked the Rusk County Board to submit a CDBG request on the city’s behalf to fund the school project. The county board is expected to consider that request at its next meeting.

In a related matter, the committee voted 3-0 to set user rates of $25 for two hours usage and $100 for full day usage of the gymnasium including a bathroom off the gym. The rates would take effect once recent break-in and fire extinguisher vandalism is cleaned up and locks on the building are changed.

Reynolds does not think these amounts are enough to cover the city’s obligations with the building.

Groothousen said the city did buy the building with the goal of turning it into a community center open to the public.

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