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Denver to explore renovating and leasing Rosedale, its last vacant public school

The former Rosedale Elementary School, located at 2330 South Sherman Street in Denver.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

After exploring options for what to do with Denver’s sole vacant public school site, district staff are recommending it be renovated and leased, likely for an education-related use.

Rosedale Elementary in southeast Denver was closed by Denver Public Schools in 2005 to save money. It has sat empty ever since. The district estimates renovations would cost about $15.6 million, though that figure could change depending on the lessee’s plans.

The district would pay for the renovations by borrowing money against future lease payments, or by including the project in a bond it would ask Denver voters to approve.

Leasing would keep the property as a district asset, while reactivating the building so it’s no longer vacant— two things community members said they wanted, said Liz Mendez, Denver Public Schools’ executive director of enrollment and campus planning.

While some neighbors hoped Rosedale would be reopened as a public school, Mendez said the district already has enough elementary schools to serve the children in the area.

Ideally, the project would have “no net impact” on district finances because the lease payments would eventually cover the cost of the renovations, officials said — a key point as the school board looks at having to make deep budget cuts in a coronavirus-damaged economy.

The discussion of what to do with Rosedale was sparked by an offer last year from the Catholic Archdiocese of Denver to buy the property for $6 million. The archdiocese wanted to turn the small 12-classroom building, built in 1924, into a private high school.

The district solicited feedback from neighbors and community members on four options: sell Rosedale, keep it vacant, renovate it for use as a district facility, or renovate and lease it. Based on that feedback and a district analysis, officials recommended the leasing option.

The next steps are for the district to decide how to pay for renovations and then solicit proposals from potential tenants. The school board would have to approve any lease, which officials said would likely be for 20 or 30 years. Only then would renovations start.

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