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updated: 9/30/2021 4:49 PM

Housing developer to buy 93-year-old Longfellow Center in Downers Grove

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  • Longfellow Center will be sold to a housing developer. The 93-year-old former school likely will be demolished.

    Longfellow Center will be sold to a housing developer. The 93-year-old former school likely will be demolished.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Downers Grove Elementary District 58 has agreed to sell Longfellow Center to Burr Ridge-based McNaughton Development, Inc., which offered a bid of more than $4.1 million.

    Downers Grove Elementary District 58 has agreed to sell Longfellow Center to Burr Ridge-based McNaughton Development, Inc., which offered a bid of more than $4.1 million.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 

A 93-year-old former school building in Downers Grove will be sold to a housing developer for more than $4.1 million.

Downers Grove Elementary District 58 has agreed to sell Longfellow Center to Burr Ridge-based McNaughton Development, Inc. The deal was approved by school board members this week.

McNaughton Development has agreed to pay $4.155 million for Longfellow Center. The building likely will be demolished.

Longfellow Center, which sits on more than 3 wooded acres at 1435 Prairie Ave, is a former elementary school that was converted into office space in the 1980s. The building housed the district's maintenance services and its office of curriculum, technology and instruction.

Saying that Longfellow was too expensive to maintain, District 58 put the property up for sale in May with a minimum bid price of $3.8 million.

Then in August, the district dropped the bid price to $3 million. It also took more concrete steps to attract potential buyers, including creating a firm timetable to relocate Longfellow staff.

In the meantime, District 58 and Downers Grove announced a proposal to share office space in a potential new village hall. The proposed building would house the police station and administrative offices for the village and the school district.

District 58 school board members voted unanimously on Monday to sell Longfellow Center to McNaughton Development. They didn't comment after the vote.

Before the vote, Joe Leo, a former District 58 school board member who lives near Longfellow Center, expressed his disappointment with the board's push to sell the building.

"I have a hell of a time reconciling how I go forward volunteering and assisting a district that just doesn't listen," Leo said to board members. "You got bids at 2 p.m. How many of you were able to look at those bids and read them thoroughly and formulate your opinion on them?"

Leo has touted the history of Longfellow, which was designed by the architectural firm of Van Gurten and Van Gurten. The firm also worked on two other historic Downers Grove buildings -- Whittier Elementary School and Tivoli Theatre.

Todd Drafall, the district's assistant superintendent for business, said McNaughton Development currently is building a 10-lot subdivision called Copper Leaf near the intersection of 55th and Main streets in Downers Grove.

The Longfellow site is zoned for 12 residential lots, officials said. A call seeking comment from McNaughton Development on their future plans for the Longfellow site was not returned.