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The University of Mary exercised its option to purchase the city-owned East Front Avenue property that’s home to Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health.

The city of Bismarck has finalized the sale of its public health building to the University of Mary.

U-Mary has purchased the building at 500 E. Front Ave. for $2.15 million. The Bismarck City Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the sale of the facility.

City attorney Jannelle Combs told commissioners a lease agreement is included so that Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health doesn't have to vacate the building prior to the sale closing, which is expected to occur within 60 days.

Renae Moch, director of Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health, said they will have 18 months to relocate. She said the city will look at current buildings for sale, as well as consider the option of constructing a new building.

"We're trying to take into consideration what works best as far as a location for us, like proximity to current community partners, other city departments that we work with, and look at other options that are available," she said.

In October 2015, the commission approved giving the university a five-year option on the building. The purchase price started at $2 million in 2015, and has increased $50,000 annually as outlined in the agreement.

Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health has occupied the 500 E. Front Ave. building since 2005, according to Moch. 

Bismarck State College has also been leasing a portion of the building for its health sciences program since 2005, but informed the city earlier this year they planned to terminate their lease agreement and move the program on campus.

BSC received $8.9 million from the state Legislature this year to fund the move, which includes the purchase of new technology and the creation of a "virtual hospital." A college spokeswoman previously said they planned to begin moving out of the building in July.

Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health will lease their portion of the building from U-Mary until they find a new location. The rent is $119,936 per year, according to Moch.

Combs said Tuesday the city will continue to provide janitorial services and snow removal at the building.

Greg Vetter, U-Mary's vice president, said negotiations with the city "went well," and that the building will be utilized this fall as short-term transitional space for engineering students.

About 100 to 125 engineering students will occupy the building, according to Vetter. Construction began a couple weeks ago on a new engineering school on the university's main campus, which is scheduled to open August 2020.

Vetter said the purchase of the building is part of U-Mary's Vision 2030 strategic plan, which calls for a downtown campus location. 

"This allows us to begin the planning process of what could be there," he said.

Vetter said it's "very likely" that graduate students in the health science field will occupy the building, but a final decision has not yet been finalized.

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(Reach Blair Emerson at 701-250-8251 or Blair.Emerson@bismarcktribune.com)

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