Old high school owner considers senior housing

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 26, 2002

The owner of Albert Lea’s old Central High School said the best chance for reusing the building may be senior apartments, but the idea is still in the study stages.

&uot;It just lends itself so well to some kind of senior houusing,&uot; said Ed Rymer, a Hastings developer who owns the buiding. &uot;As far as the surrounding area, it doesn’t get any better.&uot; He cited the nearby hospital, churches, city park and lake as popular amenities that make the location attractive to senior citizens.

&uot;If you were to pick the best scenario for any commuinity in the U.S., that’s it,&uot; Rymer said.

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Rymer said he’s working on feasibility studies, and that any housing project would probably need assistance from housing tax credits.

In the meantime, he said many groups have asked about using part of the building, but that he’s not willing to break up the large structure yet.

&uot;I don’t want to commit to something until the largest component is in place,&uot; Rymer said. &uot;I don’t want to fragment it at this time and jeopardize what should be done to it.&uot;

He’s willing to bide his time while deciding the best course, he said, and he’s not concerned that leaving the building vacant over the winter will cause deterioration.

&uot;You can winterize it just like (the school district) did last winter,&uot; Rymer said. &uot;It’s actually in pretty good condition. I think the roof is in good shape.&uot;

Rymer has said all along that he wants input from the community, and that he wants to preserve the huge Cap Emmons Auditorium in the building. Whatever use he finds must fit the needs of the community, he said.

That may end up being senior housing.

&uot;I’d like to pursue that all the way until I’m convinced that option is exhausted,&uot; he said.

Rymer bought the building from the school district for $1 in March. It had been vacant since 2000, when the new Albert Lea High School opened.