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Downtown Board ‘concerned’ about possible Waubonsee building sale

The former Waubonsee Community College building 5 E. GaleneBlvd. downtown Auroris going back market after company thplanned buy structure said

The former Waubonsee Community College building at 5 E. Galenea Blvd. in downtown Aurora is going back on the market after the company that planned to buy the structure said it is no longer pursuing the purchase. | File~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 14, 2014 8:32AM

AURORA — An influential downtown group has concerns about the potential sale of the former Waubonsee campus to the East Aurora School District.

Kim Granholm, chair of Aurora Downtown, said the board’s Executive Committee met this week on the potential sale of the downtown building. In a letter mailed to Waubonsee officials Wednesday, Aurora Downtown Board members addressed their concerns with the possible high school-use of the old Waubonsee buildings at 5 E. Galena Blvd. and 14-20 S. Stolp Ave.

In January, East Aurora officials announced that the School District entered a proposal about a month ago to buy the former Waubonsee campus for $1.5 million. If the deal is approved, the property would house East Aurora administrators and eventually a high school program that could bring 500 high school students downtown.

Granholm declined to talk specifics of concerns outlined in the letter, but said that as a downtown business owner, she is personally concerned about how the proposed school would affect traffic flow in the area. Granholm co-owns Aurora Fastprint at 54 E. Galena Blvd. in the city’s downtown, close to the former Waubonsee Community College campus.

The second phase of the East Aurora project would be to house about 500 high-performing students in the building who are pursuing engineering, technology and health care professions as part of the Pathways to Prosperity project, according to East Aurora School Board President Annette Johnson.

But Granholm has reservations about how the added student traffic could affect her business.

“I’m a block away from the actual building, and as anyone can imagine, moving 500 students twice a day is concerning to me as a business owner and a property owner,” she said.

Granholm said she supports the idea of the school, but doesn’t know that it’s best suited on Stolp Island.

“I think the fact that East Aurora is creating a school is incredible, but I don’t know that it’s best for businesses downtown,” she said.

East Board President Johnson said that she thinks that adding 100 East staff members to the downtown workforce would be a great addition. Staff would bring vendors, teachers and other people connected to East Aurora downtown, too, she said Wednesday night.

“It would be an administrative center first, and further down the road, a school,” Johnson said. “You usually don’t get so many professional people downtown all day long.”

Johnson said the school district is committed to working with the city to address traffic concerns. East Aurora officials have not had further discussion with Waubonsee officials regarding the building offer, she said.

East Aurora spokesman Matt Hanley said the district had no comment on the letter.

Waubonsee spokesman Jim Sibley declined to comment on the pending East Aurora purchase in January.

The old Waubonsee property went up for sale after Wisconsin-based developer Gorman & Company backed out of an agreement in December to purchase the campus. Before they pulled out of the purchase, Gorman planned to turn the buildings into a mixed-use space for residential lofts, retail and workspaces. Gorman also originally offered $1.5 million for the property.

Prior to the Gorman deal, Mayor Tom Weisner announced in March 2013 that the city planned to buy the two Waubonsee buildings to create a technical training center with Waubonsee and East Aurora, West Aurora, Indian Prairie 204 and Oswego 308 school districts partnering on the project. About one-third of the building space was to be leased to East Aurora as district offices under that plan.

The Waubonsee Board of Trustees next meets on Feb. 19.

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