Last August, Maple Grove’s Zachary Square Center became home to Parnassus Preparatory School—a public charter school. Now, thanks to a unanimous motion from the Maple Grove City Council, the school will expand and increase their term of occupancy.
By approving the amendment to the PUD concept stage plan, council members agreed that Parnassus Preparatory School can expand by 13,000 square feet, relocate the playground to the north-central portion of the parking lot and extend the term of occupancy from 10 to 15 years. Before playground construction begins, the Council said they want to approve playground design plans.
The expansion will help to accommodate an increase in attendance, according to city council documents.
But Zachary Square wasn’t originally built to accommodate a school. Constructed in 1982, the mostly vacant square was built as a partially enclosed retail mall. “Before 1990, it was never less than 40 percent vacant,” Community Development Director Dick Edwards said in city council documents, adding that Zachary Square’s success relied heavily on the finished construction of Highway 610.
In 1990 and 2005, the City Council approved the re-purposing of the square for school use. “The feeling was that the center is struggling and the school use is better than vacant space,” Edwards said in city council documents.
In 2011, the City Council again agreed that a school, this time Parnassus Preparatory School, could occupy some of the square’s space. Because the school is located in what should be a retail center, the school’s expansion comes with a few caveats, including concerns about road conditions and safety.
“While conditions are generally acceptable for a school at this location, they become less desirable for a playground because the environment typically associated with a playground simply does not exist,” Edwards said in city council documents. “However, since the City has embraced this site for school use, the concept for a playground in a parking lot environment can be accomplished.”
Edwards emphasized that extra caution must be taken to ensure that students don’t come too close to moving traffic. In their April 30 meeting, the Maple Grove Planning Commission stressed the importance of child safety and that a clear plan to get children to and from the playground should be in place. The City Council shared the same concerns.
The school's playground designs will most likely include a fence or raised concrete, though no permanent plans have been made. Councilmember LeAnn Sargent suggested the use of a crosswalk through the parking lot to ensure that drivers are more aware of children in the area.
Councilmember Phil Leith expressed concern about the square's deteriorating road conditions, but Edwards assured him that the playground would be constructed on top of the existing parking lot. This construction would cover the old asphalt.
The expansion will allow the school to create nine or 10 additional jobs and provide space for a student body of roughly 500.
What do you think of the City Council's approval of the expansion plans? Tell us in comments!
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