RED WING — Residents continue to meet in order to discuss what should be done with the Jefferson and St. John’s buildings that are currently sitting empty. There is no plan for the old hospital but Jefferson is close to being sold for housing.
In a reprisal of previous meetings, those living in and around the old fairground neighborhood piled into the Foot Room in the Red Wing Library on Wednesday to hear updates about the status of Jefferson and to begin discussing ideas for St. John’s.
“No idea is too crazy to talk about,” said Red Wing City Council member John Becker who acted as the meeting’s facilitator.
A few ideas for the space were raised during the session: creating a folk school, building houses or duplexes, creating a space for those 55 and older, and giving the land back to the Prairie Island Indian Community since all of Red Wing was once home to Native Americans.
The most common suggestion was to tear down St. John’s and create a green space until a decision for the area could be made.
Mayor Sean Dowse and the City Council’s administrator, Kay Kuhlman, both attended the meeting and voiced their support of tearing down St. John’s.
“Get the building out of there and figure-out our next steps,” Dowse said.
Council President Dean Hove stressed that the city shouldn’t demolish the building before developing an idea for the nearly two blocks of land.
“Let’s try to have a plan first so we can recoup our money,” Hove said.
The old St. John’s Hospital is currently owned by Mayo. Before the future of the area can be decided, the city has to work with the company to determine the fate of the building and who will be responsible for tearing it down.
Tom Wilder, a member of the community, suggested that Mayo should tear it down because the cost could be written off as a rounding error for the company.
The Red Wing School Board has not made a final decision for the future of Jefferson, but it is likely that it will be sold to Jim Patterson, a Red Wing local, to be developed into apartments.
“I think we’re really close to signing purchase agreements,” Red Wing Superintendent Karsten Anderson told those gathered on Wednesday.
Patterson and the school board plan to include a park in the sale’s final agreement.