Entrepreneurs have not missed their chance – the old Rushford-Peterson School is once again available to purchase for $225,000. When the new R-P School was built in 2017, the old building consisting of the original 1906 building as well as additions completed in 1936, 1958 and 1968 was offered for sale in 2019. At that time three entities ultimately submitted bids for the old building – Well House Ministries, Maplewood Group and the City of Rushford.
Well House Ministries shared a plan to create a wellness center, creative therapy and a prayer room in the 1906 portion. A meeting room, creative therapy, spa and food services were planned in the 1936 portion. Initially, the 1957 addition was to be used for offices with the plan for additional parking in that area eventually. The gym portion was to be used to create 25-30 sleeping rooms. A boulevard prayer garden was planned where the blacktop playground stood. The total budget was an estimated $17,500,000.
Maplewood Group’s plan was to build a Hi-Tech engineering Center. Its intent was to keep the outer esthetics of the 1906 building while remodeling the interior. The facility was to serve as both a training and research facility. The gym was to be kept intact to be used as a workout room; while the theater would be upgraded and used for training sessions. Their total budget was $15 million with a cash offer for the building of $400,000.
The city of Rushford had a different plan for the old school building. A grant was available at that time which would pay for half the cost of demolition of the building. After the property was cleared, the city intended to sell the land to a developer to recoup the rest of the demolition expense. Its goal was to provide much needed housing in the city.
The R-P School Board was leery of dealing with Maplewood Group after a deal on the R-P Middle School building in Peterson went bad. The board was reluctant to have the building demolished; so they decided to sell the building to Well House Ministries for $100. Well House raised $50,000 to cover insurance, tech support and an architect; the group applied for and received a two-year conditional use permit to use the building as they had outlined. The buildings, remaining contents, greenspace and playground equipment were to be used or sold at the discretion of Well House.
Unfortunately, expected funding for the project fell through. The playground equipment was an added liability that Well House could not afford to insure. After offering it to the city, Well House sold the equipment to a private party. The city did not want the liability of moved, used equipment; Well House wanted to keep the land it sat on.
Well House did some of the work to get ready for construction; shelves were disassembled and basketball hoops and old lockers were sold. After the two-year conditional use permit expired, it was not renewed. While ministry could still happen at the location, the property cannot now be used for boarding houses, apartments or classrooms by Well House.
Well House contacted the city to ask if they wanted to purchase the school at this time. The city decided to pass on the offer so the property is now offered for sale online at an asking price of $225,000.
Many people wonder about the current condition of the building. There has been no asbestos removal since the school did some one summer. Commercial real estate offerings do not require disclosure regarding asbestos, but given the age of the building, there is most likely asbestos remaining.
The flat roof of part of the building leaked and caused mold since the closure of the school; this will need mitigation. While the gym floor is still there, it has developed so many waves due to moisture that it would need to be replaced now.
The elevators remain in place, but have not been inspected or operated since the sale of the building. The heating system consists of several boilers which have added and tied in with every addition.Water and sewer have also been shut off since the school closed.
Taxes on the building are unknown; this property has never been a tax zone to this date.
There is disagreement on whether any part of this building could be on the historical register. In a letter from the State Historic Preservation Office dated April 2013, it was deemed that too many changes had been made to the building so that it “no longer recalls its period of significance.” A recent opinion suggested that if the additions were separated from the original, there might be a possibility of meeting historic requirements which could potentially provide 40% back in tax abatement. Obviously, a new purchaser would need to explore that further.
According to the county records, the square footage is 130,511; another calculation completed by adding each addition and the original came up with 171,058. Regardless, there appears to be plenty of room for investors to develop!
Possible suggestions for use are the development of housing for 55+ seniors in the old elementary portion, a regular community theater could be in the theater and the gym could provide space for larger tournaments to be held in Rushford.
The 1906 building’s top floor has huge transoms on both sides of the high, beamed ceilings that would bring in plenty of natural light—a perfect place to create loft apartments.
Both Well House Ministries and many former students want the old building to be kept and repurposed. Several groups have shown some serious interest in the property so far. Both Preston and Lanesboro have schools that have been successfully repurposed. Who will take on the challenge of the old R-P building?
(Many thanks to R-P Schools and the city of Rushford for providing access to documents regarding the building and its sale. Well House Ministries was contacted, but did not reply to a request for an interview.)