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BSU Foundation, developers close land deal: Off-campus housing, future commercial development planned for old BHS site

BEMIDJI -- The Bemidji State University Foundation closed on a deal to sell the former Bemidji High School site in order for developers to turn it into off-campus student housing and commercial property, BSU announced Friday.

Peterson Developers acquired the 11 acres from the BSU Foundation in a sale that closed in mid-January, a BSU press release said. John and Trudy Peterson plan to build the multi-phase “University Heights” off-campus housing project, which includes multiple buildings to be operated by BSU similar to on-campus dorms.

Jodi Monerson, BSU’s director of residential life, said the project would fill a gap in the BSU’s housing options.

“We don’t have apartments and are missing that aspect of housing,” Monerson said in a release. “Our plan is that the residences will be for juniors and seniors. This will let us provide new options for students to stay on campus longer, and will serve a population that we’re currently not retaining.”

BSU will have at least one onsite facility manager once the first building is completed, and would collect rent from student residents on behalf of the developer, the release said.

The first combined residential building near 18th Street is scheduled to begin construction this summer and to be open for tenants by August 2016.  

It will have capacity for 56 students, the release said.

In addition, a second building with 6,000 square feet of space for commercial businesses on the ground floor is planned to be finished by August 2019. There also are plans to build 10 townhouses along Minnesota Avenue.

Peterson said the retail space would benefit the students and surrounding neighborhood.

“Once the buildings get going, there will be more community demand for commercial space on the first floors,” Peterson said. “Our main focus is to get businesses that people who live near the development will use every day — a grocery store or a convenience store, and we’re working on that. This will not only be good for BSU, but also for everyone who lives in that area.”