Buyers: Middle School auditorium meets unique needs

Author’s note: This article is the third in a four-part series about the sale of the former school at 15 N. State St. written in a question-and-answer format. The series attempts to respond to some questions recently raised about the deal. The articles will also be published on The Journal web site as they appear in print.

Q: Why do we need three auditoriums in this community? We already have one at the Community Center (former Senior Center), and the school district says it would build another as part of a potential new school.

A: The former school auditorium at 15 N. State St. has more than 900 seats, making it the largest venue in the region, says Cenate spokesman Reed Glawe. The Community Center barely holds 300 and does not have the same ambiance, he says. The other high schools do not have historic murals or the same sense of history.

While the Community Center is a fine venue for certain types of performances or events, it really is not set up to do large musicals and plays properly, says Glawe. Some of its shortfalls include limited backstage space for sets, very limited lighting and sound system options, and a small stage.

The former school auditorium really is a proper and suitable venue for large productions, Glawe adds. It has a large backstage, spacious front stage, overhead and front spot lighting, a sound system, multiple curtain options, etc.

With just the school auditorium now, stage availability is limited because the district uses the gym section for sports and the stage for performances and student activities. Groups like NUACT and community concerts have a hard time getting stage time. If the district builds a new a performing arts center, that facility will serve student and district needs. Uses listed by Superintendent Jeff Bertrang include upper elementary, middle school, junior high and high school plays, band concerts, choir concerts and speakers who would come in to meet with the students.

In that event, the old auditorium will satisfy a lot of what Cenate sees as a pent-up need in the community for stage time for other uses: NUACT performances, concerts, lectures or training for local businesses, instrumental and orchestra performances, children’s plays, chorus events, touring pop and rock bands or comedy teams, etc. It will open up opportunities that until now did not exist.

Q: What will happen to the historic murals in the auditorium?

A: The intention, and contractual obligation, is to keep the murals in place. Pending the clarification of a potential federal interest in these WPA works, they may be transferred to a historic preservation agency capable of preserving, maintaining and potentially restoring them, on-site. The time between now and the July 2 closing date will be used to formalize arrangements for the murals.

Q: How will multiple titles for the same building work? Judging from the case of Marktplatz Mall, is it not a recipe for disaster?

A: While the campus may ultimately end up with three owners: Cenate and later a developer; 5N; and potentially a commercial owner for the 1955 addition, an agreement would spell out responsibilities about shared property, maintenance, future upgrades, abiding with historic designation expectations and other terms, says Glawe. That’s why in establishing two limited liability corporations, every effort is being made to have citizen representation on them, individuals who do not necessarily have monetary investment in the campus, but who represent entities in the community or, in general, the community interest, says Glawe.

Common-ownership properties are very common, and they work very well, says Glawe. A good example is a condominium complex. Each apartment or unit in a condominium is owned separately and can be mortgaged, conveyed, etc. The common areas in the complex (parking lots, sidewalks, grounds) are owned and managed by an association made up of the separate unit owners.

A set of organizational documents and declarations govern how the association operates and what the duties and responsibilities of the association and owners are. Each owner pays dues to the association each year or monthly, to pay costs for taking care of the common areas. Townhome complexes and single-family housing developments also often use this approach.

The same structure is available for commercial property. It is the basic structure Cenate is currently considering. If an owner does not pay the association dues, they become a lien against the owner’s portion of the property, and the lien can be foreclosed.

The duties of the separate owners to each other regarding the splitting out of utilities, common-wall support obligations, security, access, etc. will also be addressed in agreements.

“There are lots of moving parts, but they will be dealt with upfront and while there is a common owner,” said Glawe. “It is easier to set the ground rules when there is only one owner, and the subsequent owners must abide by them.”

As for the Marktplatz parallel, “that answer is easy,” says Glawe. The difference between the school property and Marktplatz is that, in the school case, the structure described above will be put in place at the outset, with the ground rules spelled out, along with the penalties and consequences.

“With Marktplatz, the rules for multi-party ownership were not laid down upfront; either there were no rules, or they evolved over time, as I understand that situation, anyway. Totally different,” said Glawe.

Tomorrow:?The process that led up to the deal and looks at what comes next.

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