The Bismarck Public School district is seizing an opportunity to address the parking shortage at Bismarck High School by purchasing and demolishing four houses near the school's new auditorium, but it will force one family out against its will.
The four houses are between First Lutheran Church and East Avenue E on the west side of North 7th Street, right off Highway 1804 heading south. The district plans to demolish the homes and repurpose the land into nearly 70 additional parking spots.
The auditorium addition to the high school eliminated some available parking spaces, but the district converted a grassy area to make up for the lost space, making the overall loss from the addition a "net zero," said Darin Scherr, business and operations manager for the district.
But parking has always been an issue at the high school located in the heart of the city.
"Bismarck High has been one of those schools that’s always been short (on parking)," Scherr said. "And you’ve got to act sometimes when opportunities present themselves."
Scherr said the church, which owned two of the homes, approached the district about a possible partnership or sale of the property. District officials were then approached by the estate of a home on the same block about a potential sale, so they approached the final homeowner, who was willing to sell.
The sale of the homes closed last Friday. The district paid $165,000 for the house at 828 N. 7th St., $150,000 for 824 N. 7th St., and $100,000 each for 818 N. 7th St. and 822 N. 7th St.
"All those prices were under the taxable value," Scherr said.
House numbers 818 and 822 were significantly cheaper then the others because the district is working on a use agreement with the church.
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"They’ll have the advantage of then using the parking lot," Scherr said.
He estimated the cost of demolishing the homes and repurposing the land into a parking lot could approach $300,000. The district hopes to have the parking lot ready by the start of school next fall.
The lot will be used by teachers during the school day but will be available for anyone attending evening and weekend events at the high school.
Resident Jazlyn Stoken, who lives at 818 N. 7th St., one of the houses owned by the church, said her household received a letter notifying the family of the pending sale about a month ago. Stoken, 22, lives there with her parents and her younger brother.
The family has until the end of the year to find a new home. Stoken said they've been struggling to find a new place to live with their two large dogs, both boxer mixes.
"It’s a very difficult thing because I went to BHS, I'm a former BHS student, so its like, bad, my own school being the reason why I’m getting kicked out of my house," Stoken said.
She graduated from Bismarck High School in 2015.
Scherr expressed sympathy for the plight of the homeowners affected.
"As a district, we understand that and we're going to work with them to help ease the transition," Scherr said. "That’s why were giving them over four months to do that process."