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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 Bismarck City Commission is expected to take final action on the purchase agreement at its next meeting.

The University of Mary exercised its option to purchase the city-owned East Front Avenue property that’s home to Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health and the soon-to-be relocated Bismarck State College Allied Health Campus for $2.15 million.

In October 2015, the Bismarck City Commission approved giving the university a five-year option on the property located at 500 E. Front Ave.

During its meeting Tuesday night, the commission directed staff to continue negotiating the terms of the purchase agreement, being sure to include a leaseback provision to ensure Public Health won't have to relocate immediately.

“We have full intentions of working well with the city in terms of giving ample time for Public Health to remain in the facility … there’s no immediacy from our standpoint in having them relocate,” said Greg Vetter, the university’s executive vice president.

Vetter said the purchase is part of U-Mary’s Vision 2030 strategic plan, which calls for a downtown campus location to be used primarily by graduate students, particularly those studying in the health sciences field.

“We’re very excited about moving forward on this project,” he said.

The purchase price started at $2 million in 2015 and has increased $50,000 annually, as outlined in the agreement. Had the university not exercised its option, it would have expired Oct. 13, 2020.

Bismarck State College has been leasing 15,000 square feet of the Public Health building since 2005. In March, the city commission approved BSC’s request to terminate its operating lease agreement, effective Aug. 31, allowing the college to relocate its health science programs to the main campus.

On Tuesday, the commission also directed staff to start looking for an alternate location for Public Health.

“I know there was a space study done in ‘14 or ‘15 and that might be an opportunity to revisit that at this time and see what the direction of Public Health might be moving forward,” Mayor Steve Bakken said.

The commission is expected to take final action on the purchase agreement at its next meeting.

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(Reach Cheryl McCormack at 701-250-8264 or cheryl.mccormack@bismarcktribune.com.)​

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