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Fire training facility, arts space options for Roosevelt

BY NINA EARNEST | DECEMBER 07, 2010 7:20 AM

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More than a year after the Iowa City School Board voted to close Roosevelt Elementary, two options for the building are now on the table.

The Iowa City City Council discussed two options for the school, 611 Greenwood Drive, on Monday after Fire Department officials toured the building and found it to be in bad condition.

Students are scheduled to attend Roosevelt in the next school year.

One option discussed during the council's work session was to use the building for a Fire Department training facility.

Jeff Davidson, the city's director of planning and community development, explained another option was to develop a plan with the private organization Artspace.

Artspace specializes in converting older buildings into work and living spaces for artists, Davidson said. A prospective partnership would begin with a $12,500 initial assessment including numerous focus groups and review of available sites.

Davidson said Artspace would likely end up owning the building.

"I like the idea of the Artspace but not here," Councilor Connie Champion said of the school.

Champion said the area was a large tract of prime land, and she was not convinced ArtSpace was the right choice.

But Councilor Terry Dickens said there was little or no interest in the property.

In June 2009, School Board members voted unanimously to close Roosevelt after months of heated discussions.

The controversial decision was because of the building's poor condition, overcrowding, and being identified by the Iowa Department of Education as having an ethnically and socioeconomically isolated enrollment.

The choice to close the school was one of nine recommendations presented by the School District's Facilities Advisory Committee. Some of the options called for renovations or expansion of Roosevelt instead.

Its closing elicited negative responses from many communities members, who noted the school's cultural, community, and historical benefits.

Dickens, the councilor representative on the Roosevelt committee, is scheduled to discuss sharing the cost of the Artspace assessment on Dec. 13.

Councilor Regenia Bailey said she was interested in looking further into reusing the building.

"We're just looking at all of our options," said School Board member Toni Cilek. "We haven't at all narrowed that down."


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