Rosedale school to serve an educational purpose in the future

Request for Proposals open until mid-October

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It could become a facility for childcare. Or job training. Or cultural enrichment.

Though the exact use has not been determined, Rosedale Elementary School’s future will serve an educational purpose.

Denver Public Schools sent out a Request for Proposals for the shuttered Rosedale school, 2330 S. Sherman St., near the beginning of September. Proposals will be accepted until Oct. 16.

“Rosedale is an asset that DPS has owned for a long time,” said Sara Walsh, director of planning and real estate for the school district. “Having an empty building isn’t the best use of this asset. We know people want to see life back in that building.”

Rosedale Elementary opened in 1924, and closed in 2005 — the district citing low enrollment for the closure. Aside from being used by the DPS Department of Safety for training and active shooter drills, it has sat empty.

On April 20, the DPS Board of Education decided to explore leasing Rosedale to a third party. The Rosedale Lease Advisory Committee was formed, and was tasked with helping draft the RFP — including determining what kind of uses would be allowed, and the method for which possible tenants will be decided upon in the chance that DPS gets multiple interested parties.

After the RFP closes, the committee will reconvene and use a scoring method to determine a potential tenant. The committee is expected to present its recommendation to the Board of Education in mid-November.

Per the RFP, Rosedale’s future tenants must use the facility for educational purposes and submit a “detailed business plan specific to the proposed uses of the Rosedale facility.” Educational purposes include, but are not limited to, “K-12 education; early childhood education; post-secondary education; adult education; job training; professional training; cultural enrichment; or other learning, teaching or academic uses,” states the RFP. Additionally, the RFP states that tenants wishing to use Rosedale for “industrial, residential or marijuana-related uses are prohibited from responding to this solicitation.”

Prospective tenants must also demonstrate “solvency as a long-term tenant,” and submit a “plan for fiscal sustainability to be able to meet all lease obligations for the term of the lease,” according to the RFP.

Through the years that Rosedale has been closed, DPS assessed the property to potentially use it as a “charter or district-run school but the costs of renovation and the small size of the site proved too prohibitive for those uses,” states the RFP. Other uses explored included using it as affordable housing for teachers, but there was a lack of support for this idea from the neighborhood and some teacher advocate groups, the RFP states.

Late last year, conversations on what to do with the empty school heightened after the community learned that DPS received a letter from the Archdiocese of Denver proposing to purchase the school, renovate the building and reopen it as a private high school.

It wasn’t so much that the community didn’t want its use to be a high school, said Tom Montoya, president of the Rosedale Harvard Gulch Neighborhood Association. It was more that people didn’t want DPS to sell it, he added.

The lease option allows Rosedale to remain a district-owned property, Walsh said. In addition, Rosedale renovations are not included in the bond measure on the Nov. 3 election, she added. By using a borrowing method called Certificate of Participation for Rosedale, DPS can recoup renovations through the lease payments, Walsh said.

Aside from use-specific improvements, the building itself needs a lot of updating. Needed updates include electrical work, fire safety, installing an HVAC system, ADA, etc. According to DPS public documents, the latest estimate is that renovations could cost nearly $16 million.

The greater community cares about the Rosedale school’s future, Walsh said. She added that members of the Rosedale Lease Advisory Committee represent the Rosedale Harvard Gulch Neighborhood Association, immediate neighbors, DPS teachers, parents of students who attend nearby DPS schools, and residents of the greater southeast and southwest Denver regions.

“The committee wants to honor what the community wants,” Walsh said, “as well as do what’s best for Rosedale.”

Language in the RFP also outlines that any future tenant must express “a desire to continually engage with the Rosedale community throughout the term of the lease.”

Final lease negotiations are expected to occur between November and January, but, because of the necessary renovations and use-specific improvements — such as updated playground equipment, if the facility will host children, for example — it is still undetermined when the future tenant will move in, Walsh added.

In the meantime, the Rosedale Harvard Gulch Neighborhood Association is working with Scott Baldermann — the District 1 representative on the Denver Public Schools Board of Education — to figure out some service projects, such as grounds maintenance to make the property more presentable and safer, that the community can get involved with, Montoya said.

“There is a strong, emotional bond to the building — some of those ties go back 50 or 60 years,” Montoya said. “Rosedale is an architectural icon within the community. People want the building maintained, and they don’t want it to be vacant.”

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