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Northern Pines to present plans for Whittier school

Northern Pines Mental Health Center will present its proposal for a community center for health and wellness at Whittier Elementary School at a 6:30 p.m. Monday informational meeting at the north Brainerd school.

The Center, formerly the Lakes Area Senior Activity Center, was listed in a news release as a co-presenter of the plans, which will be presented to members of the Northside Neighborhood Association on Monday.

Details of Northern Pines’ “repurposing” plans were scarce late Friday. Glenn Anderson, executive director of the mental health center, could not be reached for comment.

News of the meeting comes less than a week before the Feb. 1 deadline for requests for proposals which was solicited by the Brainerd School District and the Whittier Task Force.

DeAnn Barry, executive director of The Center, referred inquiries to Anderson, whom she said was preparing a request for proposal for the Works Progress Administration building, just north of Gregory Park.

“The Center is looking forward to being involved in the repurposing,” she said.

Barry, Kelly Bevans, a Brainerd City Council member; Steve Lund, Brained School District director of business services; Krista Soukup, a north Brainerd resident; are all members of the Whittier Task Force. No RFPs have been submitted to the school district yet, Lund said.

Bevans, who lives near the school, said he was aware Northern Pines had plans for the building but had no details on what those plans were. He said he believed Monday’s meeting was designed to encourage some enthusiasm among north Brainerd residents for the Northern Pines plan.

Soukup said she didn’t know what Northern Pines’ plans were. She has been a proponent of keeping the building for possible use as a school. She said he has questioned what the school district would do if they needed more space for elementary students.

Lund said the school district has shown the building to various parties, including Northern Pines.

“I really don’t know anything specific about their plans at all,” he said. “They’ve given indication they’re working on something.”

The news release said The Center would provide doughnuts and coffee at Monday’s meeting. The building will be open from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday with a brief presentation of the proposal to develop the Whittier Elementary Community Center for Health set for 6:30 p.m. The presentation will be followed by a time for questions and answers. The opinions heard at the meeting, the news release said, would be taken into consideration as the details of the Northern Pines proposal are completed.

The Northern Pines news release listed a variety of uses that were identified in a neighborhood survey as meeting local needs. They included a youth/community center, a senior center, school, pre-school/daycare center, training/adult education center and city amenity that could be rented for special events. The statement from Northern Pines said: “All these uses are compatible with and complementary to the Northern Pines’ community mission.

The Northern Pines mission is to serve individuals of all ages, families and communities by providing comprehensive, integrated services, prevention and community education, the news release stated.

MIKE O’ROURKE, associate editor, may be reached at 855-5860 or He may be followed at

Mike O'Rourke
Mike O'Rourke began his career at the Brainerd Dispatch in 1978 as a general assignment reporter. He was named city editor in 1981 and associate editor in 1999. He covers politics and writes features and editorials.
(218) 855-5860