RED WING -- Neighbors of Jefferson School and the former St. John’s Hospital met in the Red Wing Public Library’ Foot Room to discuss the possible futures for the two buildings Monday.

This meeting comes after a proposal to convert the hospital into an apartment building fell through and the Red Wing School Board re-opened the request-for-proposal process for finding a new use for Jefferson. The gathering also served as a starting point to organize a neighborhood association.

Thomas Wilder, a resident of the Jefferson/St. John’s neighborhood, acted as emcee for the meeting. Wilder explained that the two proposals for Jefferson the School Board is considering are a recovery center and a 16-unit apartment building. The idea of converting Jefferson into a recovery center was not popular among those who vocalized their opinions Monday.

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“In my opinion, and I know a lot of my neighbors share my opinion, we don’t think that’s the right spot,” Wilder told the room. Wilder later told those gathered that he has a family member who had struggled with addiction. Wilder reported that when he told this individual about the recovery center proposal, his family member said: “Is your city nuts? The first thing I would do is figure out a way to get out of there and then I would kick in a door across the street and try to find some money to buy some more drugs.”

The proposed recovery center’s goal is to provide participants with mental health treatment, assistance finding housing and a job, and learning skills needed to maintain their sobriety. In the presentation to the School Board, letters of recommendation were presented from Judge Douglas Bayley, Goodhue County Social Services supervisor Abby Villaran, and the Goodhue County Health and Human Services Board.

Jim Patterson took the podium after Wilder. Patterson lives in the Jefferson/St. John’s neighborhood. He has submitted the proposal for apartments.

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“I’d like to see something good happen up at Jefferson and I’m not here to promote myself,” Patterson said.

Patterson proposes transforming Jefferson into a 16-unit apartment building and to build a row of garages on the land, leaving, he projects, about 80% of the current green space available to be used as a park. While explaining his proposal to the group gathered Monday night, Patterson stated:

“I want to get mid-level rents. I don’t want to do low-income, I don’t want to do high-end, I want to do something that’s right in the middle, something that really is reflective of the neighborhood. Because then it’s the same people. You’ve got a renter here and people that own a house across the street or down the block are going to be the same people. That’s really, kind of my goal there. So I want just a nice, middle-of-the-road type of a rental arrangement there.”

Patterson also talked about how the group can rally together to try and prevent the treatment center from being built: “Jim Patterson, the neighborhood guy, says, ‘I don’t want the rehab facility there,’ and a way to kill that is to get the park in there, to establish that we want a park. Because I think it makes it really, really hard for the drug rehab to be put in next to the park.”

Mayo Clinic Health System said it will work with neighbors in creating a plan for the former St. John's Hospital, Red Wing. Rachel Fergu / RiverTown  Multimedia
Mayo Clinic Health System said it will work with neighbors in creating a plan for the former St. John's Hospital, Red Wing. Rachel Fergu / RiverTown Multimedia

Holly Trauer, School Board member and a resident near the St. John’s/Jefferson neighborhood, told those gathered on Monday that they should all sign up to speak at the next School Board meeting (5:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 7, in Red Wing City Hall).

“I noticed at the last meeting we had a nice number of community people and that did start to perk some ears and some eyes,” Tauer stated.

As the room full of residents prepared to leave, Red Wing Council member John Becker, who represents District 2 and lives in the neighborhood, told them: “I just wanted to add a comment. I think Tom is probably just going to say this: Be sure and sign up, give Tom your contact information, create a mailing list, stay informed, power in numbers, no question about it.”