School District to Buy Old Menninger Property

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TOPEKA, Kan. - USD 501 announced Monday that it is in the final stage of negotiations of the purchase of 128 acres of land near Hummer Park on the state hospital grounds, formerly housing the Menninger clinic.

The $2,250,000 purchase includes about 356,000 square feet of building space that the district is hoping to renovate and reuse as learning centers and district offices.

The school district says it envisions the property as an education-centered campus focusing on the use of renewable energy. "Renewable alternative energy - such as solar, wind and geothermal - is in the future of this country and the future of the world," said Mike Wilson, USD 501 Associate Superintendent.

Superintendent Dr. Kevin Singer said the school is working on a couple options for payment, and doesn't see a tax increase as necessary. Singer says the district is considering moving the central office to the hospital grounds, which would allow it to sell the Burnett Administrative Center.

"We would hope the sale of that building would bring in more money than the purchase of this entire site and if that would happen, we think that's an advantage for taxpayers as well," Dr. Singer said.

If the building doesn't cover costs, Singer said the district could also use proceeds it brings in from a contract with Pepsi-Cola. That money has been used for Hummer Sports Park. But Singer said Hummer will be paid off this year, freeing up those proceeds to possibly pay for the new investment.

The State is giving the district 10 years to pay for the land. That equals out to a little more than $200,000 per year.

The district plans to work with Washburn University and the KATS program to give contracting students a hands-on opportunity to work on renovating the buildings themselves.

"If you could keep the structure, refurbish it, and let students learn their craft, the students benefit with some real world experiences," said Dr. Singer.