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Board president says East Aurora deal for old Waubonsee campus is ‘dead’

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 22, 2014 6:23AM

AURORA — Waubonsee is no longer considering East Aurora’s offer to buy the old Waubonsee campus buildings in downtown Aurora, an East Aurora official said Thursday.

East Aurora Board President Annette Johnson said that Waubonsee will instead put the property back on the market. She received the news Thursday morning from the Realtor representing the property, she said.

“They contacted me this morning and said they’re going to go ahead and put it back on the market for a while,” she said. “They want [to see the building] back on the tax rolls.”

Johnson said she was “surprised and disappointed” by the news.

“I didn’t see this one coming. We’ve been building a Pathways for Prosperity curriculum and [the building] was an integral piece in putting the school together,” she said.

Last week, the Aurora Downtown Board sent a letter to Waubonsee officials stating their concerns with the possible high school-use of the old Waubonsee buildings at 5 E. Galena Blvd. and 14-20 S. Stolp Ave.

East officials announced in January that the School District had entered a proposal to buy the former Waubonsee campus for $1.5 million. East Aurora aimed to house administrators and eventually a high school program at the site.

Under that plan, 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 Johnson.

In December 2013, Wisconsin-based developer Gorman & Company backed out of an agreement 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.

Waubonsee operated its downtown campus from the Stolp Island buildings from August 1986 until June 2011, when the college vacated the buildings and moved to a new, larger campus across the Fox River at 18 S. River St.

A call to the Realtor representing the Waubonsee property was not immediately returned. Waubonsee officials could not be reached early Thursday.

Waubonsee Community College spokesman Jim Sibley said there has been ongoing interest in the property, and the college continues to market the site.

“Our priority is to return it to the tax rolls,” Sibley said.

In an email to the Beacon-News, the city of Aurora says it “supports Waubonsee’s decision to explore all options for returning the building to the tax base in order to promote increased business investment in downtown Aurora.

“We are aware that several private firms have expressed an interest in the building since the beginning of the year,” the statement said. “At the same time, we remain committed to assisting the East Aurora School District in launching Pathways to Prosperity, expanding its successful magnet programs and identifying potential spaces to consolidate its administrative operations.”

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