Clintonville does not have to keep historic school
Architect says designated building could be sold, demolished
By Erik Buchinger
The Clintonville Public School District learned its options regarding the Rexford-Longfellow Elementary building’s historic designation.
The discussion was held during the school district’s facility planning and analysis committee meeting on July 8.
“There are a lot of myths out there about what that means,” said Jennifer Lehrke, principal architect and historic preservation consultant for Legacy Architecture in Sheboygan, said of historic designation. “Sometimes people think they can’t do anything to the building, and a lot of that isn’t true.”
The school was listed on the State Register and National Register of Historic Places following an effort led by Clintonville resident Mary-Beth Kuester.
Lehrke said projects on historical buildings require notifying the Wisconsin Historical Society.
“It is a negotiation,” Lehrke said. “If (the people at the Wisconsin Historical Society) propose something, you guys can counter, but at the end of the day they’re going to have a say in this.”
Lehrke said it would be possible to sell the building to developers given its current condition.
“The building has been very well maintained over the years,” Lehrke said. “The school district may decide they want to sell it, and there is a market for this. There are developers who come into communities all over the state of Wisconsin and take these old, historic school buildings and turn them into something else.”
Area historic schools in New London and Shawano were repurposed into other uses.
Developers looking to purchase these buildings look at the historic designation as a perk for tax purposes.
“I think you guys have a lot of strong options in front of you,” Lehrke said. “I just wanted to come out and say don’t think you can’t bulldoze it, don’t think you can’t sell it, don’t think it’s not reusable. The sky is the limit. You guys can really do what you want to do.”
Lehrke said it is possible to be delisted off the national listing, but it is a difficult process generally used for buildings in disrepair and ready for removal.
A $24.9 million referendum for the elementary building failed in the spring of 2016 in an attempt to raze the building for a new elementary school facility.
Lehrke said referendums are passing now at high rates compared to 10 years ago.
The next facility concept planning committee meeting will be held Aug. 5 at 6 p.m. in the Clintonville Middle School library.