1936 building has remained largely vacant since the old swimming pool closed in ’79
Will the third time be the charm for the old bathhouse in Highland Park? The Saint Paul Department of Parks and Recreation hopes so. The city issued another request for proposals for reusing the facility in January.
“There’s been a high level of interest in seeing some kind of reuse of the Highland facility,” said Parks and Recreation director Andy Rodriguez.
The bids are due by February 3. A couple of potential bidders toured the facility on January 17.
All that remains of old swimming pool
The old bathhouse on the northeast corner of Montreal Avenue and Edgcumbe Road is all that remains of Highland Park’s former outdoor swimming pool. The city would like to see the building renovated and reopened as some sort of public amenity. The Highland District Council (HDC) voted to support a new use for the building in 2015. HDC executive director Kathy Carruth said the council is waiting to see what its role could be as bidders come forward.
The bathhouse was built in 1936 by the Works Progress Administration, a federal jobs creation program. The Platteville limestone building was designed around the same time that Clarence “Cap” Wigington was designing municipal buildings all over Saint Paul. Wigington is recognized as the nation’s first African American municipal architect. However, historians have not been able to tie Wigington to the bathhouse building.
Used as storage for past four decades
When the Highland Park Aquatic Center opened across Montreal Avenue in 1979, the old bathhouse was closed. The city has used the building as storage from time to time. The structure was stabilized and the roof repaired several years ago.
Friends of Highland Arts, which has hosted events outside of the old bathhouse in recent years, has pushed for the building to become a year-round venue for arts and recreation with exhibit space, meeting rooms, disc golf and cross-country ski equipment rental, and a restaurant offering walkup service and limited seating.
The city sought proposals for a new building operator in 2015 and again in 2017. When no bids came in, city staff recruited potential new users. By early 2018, two proposals to manage the facility were brought forward, but neither materialized and the building has continued to sit empty.
— Jane McClure
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