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South Bend schools board approves transfer of downtown HQ building to city

south_bend_schools_2.jpg
Justin Hicks
/
WVPE
The South Bend Community School Corporation’s current downtown headquarters.

The South Bend Community School Corporation board approved the transfer of its current downtown headquarters building to the city of South Bend Monday. It’s the next step for a deal that was temporarily derailed by the Indiana Attorney General’s office.

The district has been planning to sell its downtown headquarters to the city since January and move offices into the Brown Community Learning Center on the northwest side.

It’s part of an effort to cut costs and “right size” the district, which has seen years of declining enrollment and underutilized space at almost all schools. 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 a few weeks later thanks to Indiana’s “unused buildings” law, which requires public schools to sell unused buildings to charters for $1.

Local charter Career and Success Academy argued that the district wasn’t using Brown and should therefore sell it, and the Indiana Attorney General’s Office agreed. But the AG reversed course in July after the district provided more evidence of its future plans for the building.

With the dispute resolved, the board voted 4 to 2 Monday to transfer the district’s downtown headquarters to the city in exchange for 2 point 8 million dollars.

The district will then rent the building back from the city by paying the utility and routine maintenance costs until renovations are complete at the Brown Community Learning Center.

Officials said Monday that the cost of retrofitting Brown is $2.3 million, and the current headquarters costs $400,000 per year to maintain. The lease runs through July 2024.

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.