Schmidt Park

Schmidt Park

When the city of Rochester and the Rochester School District teamed up buy a swath of city-adjacent farmland nearly 30 years ago, both entities agreed to parcel the land later.

Now, as the school district looks to build and open an elementary school by 2022 on that land, now known as Schmidt park, drawing a demarcation might finally happen.

The city and school district bought a 40-acre parcel of the Schmidt-Daley farmland for $60,000 -- $30,000 paid by each entity. District officials eyed the spot for a new school someday when city growth would dictate the need, said John Carlson, district executive director of finance.

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"The district knew we'd need space on the northwest side," Carlson said.

Today, buying that much land within the city would cost more than 10 times as much as the district paid in 1990.

"It was good foresight to buy that land," Carlson said.

Neighborhood surprise

Some residents near Schmidt Park say they were surprised to learn the park was the target for a new elementary school as part of the district's $171.4 million bond referendum.

Voters in the Rochester Public School District are being asked to vote Nov. 5 for a bond referendum for $171.4 million to build an elementary school at Schmidt Park, to build a new middle school in a yet-to-be-determined location, and to reconstruct two elementary schools as larger capacity buildings at their current sites. The bond also funds security and safety upgrades at other schools and district buildings.

A second question asks for $9 million to build a pool at Century High School and close three middle school pools.

A preliminary conceptual drawing the district sent to the Minnesota Department of Education shows the school sitting on the north side of the park. Parent drop-off would be off Overland Drive Northwest and the bus approach would be off Granite Drive Northwest. That drawing shows homes abutting the park to the south and west won’t lose their green space.

However, that layout has not been approved by the city as school and city officials work on a development agreement. The school building also hasn’t been designed.

“Right now it’s premature to say that’s exactly where it would go,” Carlson said. “We need to get a real architect working on it.”

Pondering effects

People living near Schmidt Park wonder how a new school would affect their neighborhood. Ben Lund, whose Granite Drive Northwest home borders the park, said he likes the conceptual drawing because it keeps school traffic from coming deep into the neighborhood.

Lund was working on his lawn mower on a warm October Sunday afternoon. Bags of leaves were leaned against his garage. His kids, who are in high school and middle school, wouldn’t attend the elementary school. Lund has seen the conceptual drawing and doesn’t expect the new school would affect his view.

“That’s in a low area, where they have it,” he said.

He said he hopes the school district will have neighborhood listening sessions.

Last week, the district signed a $3.8 million contract with Knutson Construction as construction managers of the planned school construction projects. Under the contract, Knutson will arrange public informational and listening sessions about the projects. None have yet been scheduled.

Down Granite Drive Northwest from Lund, Kaushik Lahiri and his wife Mousumi Lahiri were outside raking and bagging bright red leaves from their front yard maple tree. They hadn’t heard about plans for the school. Their daughter will be in high school by the time the school would open if the bond passes.

“That would be great,” Kaushik said. “I would love it if the neighborhood kids had a school nearby.”

Mousumi was more skeptical.

“I don’t want that park destroyed,” she said.

Of the 40 acres bought in 1990, 32 acres of it is left after Overland Drive Northwest cut through a north portion of the land. District officials said they wouldn’t even need all 16 acres that is technically the school district’s.

Carlson said Gibbs Elementary School sits on 8 acres and the adjoining playground is also a city park. He said he envisions a similar arrangement at the Schmidt site.

“That kind of arrangement benefits the neighborhood and the school,” he said.

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