MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A historic Twin Cities high school is considering selling part of its front yard to a developer who wants to create a retail shopping center.

But the proposal is drawing fire from some alumni at the Academy of the Holy Angels.

The school, which was built in 1931 at the intersection of Nicollet and 66th Street in Richfield, was originally surrounded by farm fields.

Despite the controversy, school officials are wondering if the proposal is too good a deal to turn down.

A developer has offered $6 million for the part of the front lawn that borders Nicollet Avenue. The offer is for six times the land’s assessed value.

Tom Shipley, the president of the school, says it’s an offer that could transform the private school’s finances, boosting the endowment and helping retire a $10 million debt left over from an expansion and the building of an on campus sports dome.

“It’s a pretty incredible offer,” Shipley said. “As good stewards of this land, we want to make sure that whatever happens here is in the best interests of our students.”

The proposal would place retail shops, including a coffee shop and a Walgreens designed to match the schools architecture, along Nicollet Avenue. The schools sign would be moved back, leaving a large green space.

On Facebook and in person, some alumni are voicing opposition.

“There is concern of course…about doing anything to the front lawn, making any kinds of changes,” said Maureen Tesch, president of the school’s alumni council.

Those in opposition say the plan would destroy the school’s signature look.

“I think that there are other options,” Tesch said. “I would like to see the school maybe do a capitol campaign.”

School officials, however, say if the deal goes through it would allow them to double the amount of financial aid they offer, from $1 million to $2 million, and it jump start a long planned redesign of the campus.

“The immediate impact would be incredible,” Shipley added.

Holy Angels trustees could vote on the proposed deal in as soon as six weeks.

Even if approved, the deal would still need to be negotiated and would need approval from the Richfield City Council.

The Academy of the Holy Angels has 650 students.


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