COUNCIL BLUFFS — The Council Bluffs Community School District board has scheduled a public hearing on the question of whether to sell its Madison Campus building. The hearing will be at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 14.
The building — once a Target store at the former Mall of the Bluffs off of Interstate 80 — was purchased by the school district to use as a temporary school site during the renovation of Kirn and Wilson Middle Schools. It was paid for with funds from a $37 million bond issue vote in 2018.
During the bond issue campaign, district officials said the plan was to keep the Madison Campus building for district use. Now that both schools have reopened, the district is considering selling. Superintendent Vickie Murillo said the situation has changed in the ensuing three years.
“The landscape of the Mall of the Bluffs area has changed significantly since the purchase of the property, with the addition of Menards and the demolition of the mall,” Murillo said in a press release. “The Board of Education approved placing the property on the market to see what the market would bear.”
The 95,355-square-foot property is currently listed for $3.9 million.
Under Iowa law, school districts must follow specific procedures for the purchase or sale of real estate. A public hearing is a mandatory part of the process.
The board conducted a survey of parents, staff and community members to seek input on the future use of the facility. Responses came from 957 people: 478 parents (50%), 325 district employees (34%) and 154 other community members (16%).
Among those who supported selling the property, suggestions included using the revenue from the sale to fund other district needs or to reduce the current bond.
Others touted the potential to bring in additional jobs and tax revenue to the community.
Those who favored keeping the property suggested moving the district’s central offices from their current leased space in the Omni Centre Business Park, which costs almost $250,000 per year, to the facility, creating additional meeting space for professional development, moving the Kanesville Alternative Learning Center and using the space for other purposes, such as storage, trades education, performing arts, youth recreation or as an early learning center, the press release stated.
While the board considers the future of the Madison Campus, the district is moving forward with plans to build an early learning center on the site of the former Tinley School at North Eighth Street and Avenue G. The facility would be designed specifically to meet the needs of children younger than 5, with outdoor play spaces and a learning environment that is consistent with early education and child care facility requirements. The Madison Campus does not meet those standards. A $7 million grant from the State of Iowa and private donations will help fund the construction, equipment and startup costs for the center.
The district is not relying on the potential for sale proceeds from the Madison Campus to fund the Early Learning Center, the press release said.
“The board is following due diligence to determine whether it makes economic and prudent sense to sell the property or to invest additional funds to repurpose it for other district programs,” Board President Chris LaFerla said. “Along with feedback from staff, parents and community members, we are considering other key factors before we make a decision. These include ongoing costs for ownership of the building, whether we can fully utilize the ... facility, the status of other district-owned and leased property and where we can best meet the educational needs of students.”
The building was purchased for $1.9 million and renovated at a cost of $4.4 million.