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Deal between city, South Bend schools over downtown HQ building may be back on track

The South Bend Community School Corporation’s current downtown headquarters.
Justin Hicks
/
WVPE
The South Bend Community School Corporation’s current downtown headquarters.

A deal between the City of South Bend and the South Bend Community School Corporation over the district’s current downtown headquarters building may be back on track after a recent finding from the Indiana Attorney General’s Office.

In January, the district announced it wanted to sell its downtown headquarters to the city and move into the Brown Community Learning Center on the northwest side.

And in March, the South Bend Common Council approved a $7.8 million dollar appropriation request to buy the building and renovate it into a new city hall.

At the time, multiple council members called the deal a win-win situation, as it will give the city and county more office space and decrease costs for the school corporation.

But the proposal hit a snag after the Indiana Attorney General’s Office ruled in favor of a complaint brought by local charter school Career and Success Academy.

The complaint was filed under Indiana’s “unused buildings” law — which requires public schools to sell unused buildings to charter schools for $1 — and covered the Brown Community Learning Center, which the district planned to use as its new headquarters.

The building had been leased to the St. Joseph County Public Library through the end of 2021, serving as a temporary Main Branch during renovations.

But the Attorney General’s office has now reversed course. In a July 5th letter, it says the school corporation provided evidence that Brown is currently in use, and that it plans to also renovate the building for future use. Because of that, the letter says, the case has been closed.

District assistant superintendent Kareemah Fowler told the South Bend Tribune Friday that due to the delay, the district won’t be moving out of its downtown headquarters this summer, as needed renovations at Brown haven’t happened yet.

But both sides, the Tribune reports, say they feel close to finalizing a deal.

Contact Jakob at jlazzaro@wvpe.org or follow him on Twitter at @JakobLazzaro.

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Jakob Lazzaro comes to Indiana from Chicago, where he graduated from Northwestern University in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and a double major in History. Before joining WVPE, he wrote NPR's Source of the Week e-mail newsletter, and previously worked for CalMatters, Pittsburgh's 90.5 WESA and North by Northwestern.