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Dover Street School Future: Teacher Housing or Sold to Choice School?

Marge Pitrof

The Milwaukee Public Schools district is deciding what to do with another vacant building. MPS no longer uses Dover School in Bay View. Last night, district leaders invited the public to consider their plan to convert the vacant school into housing for new teachers.

Dover Street School resembles an old-fashioned red brick schoolhouse. In fact, it is; it opened in 1890. But MPS closed Dover two years ago, because of declining enrollment.

“We are looking to redevelop the facility into teacher housing.”

That’s Gina Spang. She’s director of facilities and maintenance for MPS. Spang says in order to attract and retain new teachers – and the district needed hundreds this year; it must direct them to affordable and desirable housing.

“We took a look at our assets and the Dover building is in Bay View and we felt that that was a facility that based on the way it’s constructed and where it’s located really lent itself to a nice conversion to teacher housing,” Spang says.

The three-story school sits on more than four acres. It’s equipped with a kitchen, gymnasium, auditorium and 23 classrooms.

A few other cities have created teacher housing. Donald Manekin owns Seawall Development Company. It planned the projects in Baltimore and Philadelphia. He says there are a couple caveats to them succeeding.

“Part of it is the perfect storm—to be able to find a building old enough to qualify for historical tax credits and also be on a census track that would need this type of infusion of capital for economic development. So it wouldn’t do well in a suburb,” Manekin says.

Manekin says demand is high for the teacher apartments in both Philadelphia and Baltimore.

Credit Marge Pitrof
St. Lucas Lutheran's Church

While MPS leaders have been exploring the option, another interested party has been tugging on the district’s sleeve. Michael Koestler is principal of St. Lucas Lutheran, a school right across the street from Dover.

“We have secured commitments from donors for the purchase of that property and we have submitted a letter of interest to Milwaukee Public Schools,” Koestler says.

Last month, Koestler told legislators he needed their help to purchase Dover. They were considering a bill to force MPS to sell empty buildings to other educational entities, even if they’re competitors. The issue arose when MPS refused to sell its Malcolm X property to St. Marcus on the north side. In both cases, the interested parties are voucher schools that have outgrown their facilities.

MPS will accept proposals for Dover until December 3. The city has the final say because it owns the buildings.

Credit Marge Pitrof
House with "Let St. Lucas Buy Dover!" signs.

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