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Milan finding new roles for former school

MILAN -- One year ago a group of people in the Milan community took the unusual and risky step of acquiring a school building to preserve it as a place for the community.

There is still a ways to go to make the venture self-sustaining from an economic standpoint, but members of the Greater Milan Initiative believe they are on the right track, according to Jan Link and Anne Kanten, two of the original organizers.

It was apparent from the start that there was a need for the building in the community, according to Link. "Right from the day the building closed, there were people knocking on the doors to use it,'' she said.

The opening of the Full Circle thrift store in the building is just one of many ventures the Greater Milan Initiative is working on to raise the revenues to support the building and its upkeep.

The building also is now home to a well-equipped fitness center with more than 50 paying members.

The Greater Milan Initiative also realizes revenues by leasing use of the building's commercial-grade kitchen facilities and spacious gymnasium. The owner of a catering business as well as people who host family gatherings and events are among the users.

The kitchen and school will be used to prepare and host a local foods banquet for people during the upcoming Upper Minnesota River Art Crawl Meander, Link said.

The Lac qui Parle Valley School District is also leasing the gymnasium through the school year for junior high sports practices.

The Milan Village Arts School also uses a school room for special classes and to hold its looms.

Link said the Greater Milan Initiative is continuing to look for other possible tenants. Most of all, they would like to find commercial tenants that are in need of office space.

The spacious and energy-efficient building and its rural location would make an ideal home for all kinds of businesses, she said. She pointed out that the Milan community has the broadband Internet infrastructure needed to host any type of business.

The Greater Milan Initiative would also like to see young children back inside the former elementary school building. The school has rooms equipped and ideally suited for use as a day-care center, she noted.