old central high duluth

Developer wants to convert 128-year-old former high school in Duluth, Minn. to apartments

Oct. 15, 2020
The Historic Old Central High School, built in 1892, has not been used as a high school since 1971.

A developer wants to renovate one of Duluth, Minnesota’s most iconic buildings, a 128-year-old former high school that has bedeviled officials here for years.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that the Duluth school board has moved one step closer to a deal with Saturday Properties, a development and property management firm that plans to turn the Historic Old Central High School, built in 1892, into mixed-income housing.

“It’s one of the most notable, historic buildings in the state,” says Mark Laverty, director of development for Saturday Properties. “Every time you drive into Duluth, you see it. Obviously this building needed to be preserved, and we wanted to be a part of that.” 

Developers want to transform the building into 120 to 140 housing units for a mix of market-rate and income-restricted renters. The plans would leave the outside of the structure largely untouched and maintain some of the former school feel inside. The atrium where the Duluth school board holds meetings might be turned into a common area.

The Duluth school board unanimously approved a resolution directing district administration to enter into a purchase agreement with Saturday Properties for the building, which currently houses the district’s administrative offices, as well as its Area Learning Center and Academic Excellence Online programs. The sale price has not been disclosed.

An assessment last year said the aging building would require $48.5 million in repairs in the near future.

The company plans to start public outreach soon to hear community members’ thoughts and concerns about the proposed renovation. Saturday Properties is aiming to apply for tax credits by January, start construction in late summer or early fall of 2021 and move in renters by the end of 2022.

Historic Old Central served as the city’s only high school until 1926 and has been on the market since January. The Romanesque-style brownstone is on local and national historic registers.

The district stopped using the property as a regular high school in 1971, when a newer Central High School was built.

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy, senior editor, has written for AS&U on a wide range of educational issues since 1999.

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