Grand Marais—North House Folk School purchased a building across Hwy 61 from its campus.
“It’s been great to work with our long-time neighbors to make this important step forward” said Greg Wright, North House’s executive director. “Our goals are simple: An additional, high quality classroom to accommodate our steady growth, improved office space for our staff and flexibility that will address our future needs. Having North Shore Title staying on in the west half of the building is a great fit in many ways.”
The structure was originally built as a U.S. Forest Service administrative building. In the mid-1990s, the Forest Service moved to their new facilities on the west end of Grand Marais.
“It is hard to imagine a better addition to campus” said Nancy Burns, board vice president. “Our long term planning efforts and facility studies all underscored our need for space. Keeping campus close together will make the school stronger on many levels. The extra room and future flexibility will both be of tremendous value as North House moves forward.”
“An investment like this is a major commitment for North House,” Wright said. “Between purchasing the building and remodeling, North House will invest over $600,000. Multiple generous donors enthusiastically stepped forward to fund the down payment. They understand what moves community nonprofits forward and believe both in North House’s educational mission and our local economic impact. In addition, we have a funding request into a key regional foundation to underwrite the remodeling. Just like any other nonprofit or local business, it is a balancing act figuring out how to move a project like this forward while keeping the organization strong.“
Plans for the project include two phases. The first phase will add the new classroom and administrative offices in the old USFS administrative building. The second will move North House’s School Store/Front Office up into a modestly remodeled Yellow House on Highway 61, making it easier for campus visitors to get information and learn about the school’s year-round offerings. Moving the school store will also open up an additional classroom space in the Blue Building. A ribbon cutting and dedication is planned during the Wooden Boat Show & Summer Solstice Festival weekend, June 17-19.
Wright confirmed that like most nonprofits, North House qualifies for property tax exemption provided that the property is being used to support the school’s educational mission. Given this, North House will pay the full property tax on the half of the building that is leased to North Shore Title, and will submit paperwork so that the half used as a classroom and offices will become property tax exempt in 2017.
“Grand Marais’ unique character and the beauty of the Harbor are key features our students truly value,” said Mary Anderson, board president. “North House works hard to make a positive impact in our community and we want our steady evolution to be an asset. We feel fortunate to have so many partners and supporters who believe in us. There is something that rings true, knowing that making this strategic step forward for North House will also bring these historic buildings back together.”