OWOSSO — In November, the Owosso Public Schools Board of Education unanimously authorized Superintendent Andrea Tuttle to enter into negotiations with Community Housing Network (CHN) on a purchase agreement for the middle school property, 219 N. Water St.
The board will get its first look at the proposed agreement Monday during its regular meeting, set for 5:30 p.m. at the Owosso High School media center.
The purchase agreement is among several “for future action” proposals on the board’s agenda, indicating there will be discussion on the measure — but no final decision regarding its approval.
A vote on the measure will likely come during the board’s Feburary meeting, 5:30 p.m. Feb. 24 at the Owosso High School media center, according to Superintendent Andrea Tuttle.
The move to sell the middle school comes as the district closes in on the completion of construction work funded by a 2017 bond measure to combine grades 6-12 at the high school campus.
Work at the high school campus is ahead of schedule, according to Tuttle, thanks to favorable weather conditions.
“We’re doing really well right now because the winter has been pretty mild,” Tuttle said. “We’re on the scheduled pace to have everything completed, aside from the inside of the new auditorium, by the start of the next school year, so our hope is to have all of our sixth through eighth grade students start the school year next year in that building, which is actually ahead of schedule because initially we thought it was going to be in December 2020. If there are no unforeseen circumstances, everything should be completed by the fall.”
Upon completion of the 6-12 campus, the current middle school along North Water Street will be vacated and deemed “no longer of educational service to the district.”
The district began seeking bids for the purchase of the middle school in May, and — after a six-month bidding process — the Owosso Public Schools Board of Education started talks with CHN — a nonprofit committed to providing homes for people in need.
The nonprofit placed the lone bid of $500,000 on the property, according to Tuttle, with the intent to create a mixed use space, including residential and commercial space on the building’s lower level.
“I think that we were very fortunate that CHN put a bid,” Tuttle said. “What they’re planning to do with the building, in my opinion, is very positive for the community, and that was our goal.
“We, and I speak for the board (of education) when I say this, were first and foremost concerned about what was going into that building versus the purchase price,” Tuttle continued. “We wanted to make sure that whatever went into that building fit into our community, kept the historical value of our community and CHN intends to do that.”
On Dec. 12, 2019, the Shiawassee Regional Chamber of Commerce announced it had received a $150,000 grant from Consumers Energy to transform the middle school into a residential and professional community for up to 30 artists. According to a press release, the Chamber will use the grant for renovations at the Owosso Middle School as part of the ArtLive Project, a “living and working space with retail outlets for residents.”
“The city of Owosso has long been an impoverished community, but over the last seven years, an upturn in development and collaboration began. We have seen some really substantial development in the downtown historic district including the Lebowsky Center for Performing Arts, the Wessener Building and the Owosso Armory, which sits right next to the middle school,” Chamber President/CEO Jeff Deason said in the release. “This grant gives us the opportunity to build on the prosperity that has been generated. We can make sure the middle school building is a useful jewel of Owosso.”
The middle school was built in 1928, with additions in 1950 and 1973. The building includes an auditorium capable of seating approximately 800 people, as well as a full kitchen that serves 700-plus students. The total site is 4.5 acres.