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John A. Johnson may see changes

The John A. Johnson Elementary School was the topic of discussion at the Lake County Housing and Redevelopment Authority meeting Wednesday. (News-Chronicle photo by Adelle Whitefoot)

A developer attended the Lake County Housing and Redevelopment Authority (LCHRA) meeting Wednesday to let the board know his intentions for the old John A. Johnson Elementary School in Two Harbors.

Mike Happ, of Two Harbors Development, told the LCHRA of his intentions to purchase and demolish the old school.

"The school building is in pretty much disrepair, it's full of mold and it's pretty much a compost pile," Happ said. "So it's going to have to be removed."

Happ is expecting to close on the property on Nov. 17, but doesn't have a timeline for the property after that. Happ told the LCHRA that he is hoping to put some sort of affordable housing on the parcel. Two Harbors Development recently purchased the old Knife River schoolhouse and is in the process of turning the former Lake County DAC into apartments.

"We are excited to be in the community. We are coming in trying to understand what would be a good fit," Happ said. "We want to come into the community and we want to do good things."

The old school is currently zoned R-2, one or two family dwelling residential. Happ said he has talked to Two Harbors city officials and is optimistic about working with them to change the zoning of the parcel if needed.

"It's very exciting for the community," said Mayor Chris Swanson. "I think that a lot of people are looking forward to that building coming down."

The John A. Johnson was a pre-K through third grade school when in closed in 2005. The children were moved to the Minnehaha Elementary after the new Two Harbors High School opened. The former elementary school, built in 1953 with several remodels and additions, was sold by the Lake Superior School District in 2006 to Agate Bay Properties LLC for $52,500 with plans to remodel it for rental housing.

Adelle Whitefoot

Adelle Whitefoot is a Michigan native who moved to Minnesota in Sept. 2014 when she started as a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle. She graduated from Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Mich., in 2012 with a bachelor's in English writing and has been a professional photographer since 2011. Whitefoot is the night general assignments reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. 

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