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Brainerd not interested in acquiring Whittier School

The city of Brainerd is not interested in acquiring the Whittier School building.

The Brainerd City Council made the decision at its meeting Monday.

That leaves very few options for the Brainerd School District, which extended the offer of Whittier to both the city and Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center. The hospital has already declined the offer.

Brainerd city officials made the decision following a tour of the facility. It was on the tour they learned:

• About 40 percent of the floor area is unusable, that being hallways, mechanical and support, and the gym.

• There is little flexibility to open up spaces and change room configurations and floor layouts to make space more usable. That’s because the building is reinforced with concrete, with the hallway walls acting as bearing walls that support the adjacent floor sections.

• Elevator access is needed.

• All restrooms would need to be updated to current accessibility requirements.

• There is no air conditioning, ventilation or humidity control systems. Major upgrades would be needed.

• The building has been well-maintained.

The city looked at the building with the mind-set of how easily it could be modified to accommodate city offices, said City Engineer Jeff Hulsether. With those facts in mind, the general conclusion was that if there is a need for more or alternate city office facilities, there are probably better places to look.

“We just don’t view it as being a cost-effective acquisition,” Hulsether said of the school.

City council member Gary Scheeler added that there is no immediate need for more city offices.

City council member Chip Borkenhagen said the city has done everything it could to try to find a use for the building, but “it seems like a dead end.”

The Brainerd School District extended the offer of Whittier after the future of the 1939 school building was again left unknown following a November Brainerd City Council meeting. The council voted against a proposed amendment that would have allowed community centers in residentially zoned districts. The move was largely because neighborhood residents spoke out against it.

The school board initially gave the nod to Northern Pines Mental Health Center to repurpose the Whittier school building into the Whittier Elementary Community Center for Health and Wellness. But before Northern Pines could move forward with plans, the city of Brainerd needed to look into how to rezone the north Brainerd property, which is located in a residential district.

Now it will be up to the Brainerd School Board as to what to do next with the school building.

JESSICA LARSEN may be reached at or 855-5859. Follow me on Twitter at