ST. CLOUD – Rows of lockers remain in the hallways of the former Technical High School. But gone are the skyways, the entire western building of classrooms and the library that served the 104-year-old building.
"We're looking forward to moving in," said Dave Kleis, St. Cloud's mayor. "We've already started labeling furniture in the old building to come over here. We're three months away."
In March, the St. Cloud City Council approved the $10.37 million project renovating the historic 1917 and 1938 sections of Technical High School for use as City Hall. The St. Cloud school district vacated the building in 2019 after it built a new high school on the far south side of town.
The western building — two stories of classrooms built in 1962 with a third floor added in 1967 — were razed this spring. That space will become a parking lot.
The first floor will house economic development, planning and media departments, as well as the finance and inspections departments, which frequently are used by the public. The former school's library — previously a gymnasium — will be used as the council chambers and feature the original wood flooring.
The second floor will house offices for the mayor and city administrator, as well as IT, human resources and legal departments.
There is a dedicated space for public services, fire, police and public works departments, which operate out of separate buildings. Tech's theater will remain intact. For now, the third floor will remain unused, except for storage.
The city took responsibility to redevelop the former school to ensure it was done in a way fitting with the historic neighborhood surrounding the property. The city courted private developers to turn the former school into housing, but the only company to respond backed out because the anticipated costs were too high.
"Everyone was sorry to see the high school go. We had always hoped it would get rebuilt in our neighborhood," said Roxanne Ryan Layne, a member of the Lake George Neighborhood Committee and St. Cloud Neighborhood Coalition. "But I think people appreciate the fact City Hall is going here. The building has always been a community building and it will still be a community building."
The current City Hall will be razed for commercial development after the city vacates it. Frauenshuh Commercial Real Estate plans to build a two-story building on the site, which is at the corner of Minnesota Highway 23 and Fifth Avenue S.
Mary Mathews, who has lived on the city's south side near the City Hall building for nearly 50 years, said she expects the city's planning commission will view Frauenshuh's proposal at its meeting next week.
"Early on, we let it be known that we wanted [developers] to be respectful of our historic neighborhood with what they do, even though you've got to be realistic. It's going to be a modern building," Mathews said. "Some of us have seen the design. People seem to be happy with it."
Mathews said she hopes the project has a ripple effect on other developments, including possible redevelopment of a former church just south of City Hall that has been vacant for years.
Kleis said the new City Hall should be open by the end of the year.
The city also is on track to take over ownership of historic Clark Field by the end of the year. Clark Field, which was home to Technical High School's football program for decades, will serve as public recreation space.
"What we're trying to do is reclaim some of our historic neighborhoods — and I think it's happening," Mathews said.
Jenny Berg • 612-673-7299