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Can Draper afford to save a historic piece of its past?

By Sandra Olney

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, Aug. 29 2014 6:30 p.m. MDT

Updated: Friday, Aug. 29 2014 6:07 p.m. MDT

Draper Park School has been empty for decades. Preservationists have a plan to save the school, but they say they need time to raise the money.

Darren Bailey, KSL-TV

DRAPER — It’s that time of the year when children’s voices fill the halls of local schools. It is a sound that hasn’t been heard at the old Draper Park School for decades. Now, preservationists have a plan to revive the sounds of learning inside the 1912 historic building.

Lindsay Goeckeritz and her kids got interested in the old school’s fate after driving by it every day.

“We had read that it was going to be taken down, and I kept thinking somebody should really get on that, that’s really sad if that comes down,” Goeckeritz said.

That is when Goeckeritz decided to start the “Arts at the Park” campaign to raise awareness and money for renovations. Now the clock is ticking as the Draper City Council moves toward an early September vote on demolition. That’s not much time to show city leaders the money.

“We’re looking at a price of around $5 (million) to $6 million, and that would be to reuse and renovate the upper level and the main level of the building as well as the auditorium,” Goeckeritz said. The end result would be a community arts center, and that’s something Goeckeritz said is needed in the south end of the Salt Lake Valley.

The city of Draper’s motto is “The spirit of Draper’s past will be the strength of Draper’s future,” and as the former mayor and a current member of the Historic Preservation Commission, Darrell Smith has tried to live up to that message. As mayor, Smith secured private funding to move another historic building — the Day Barn — from a commercial district along 12300 South to the park that borders the old downtown.

Smith thinks there is a way to balance preservation of the past with funding for the fast growing city of Draper.

“It helps maintain the character and the culture of the city and none of us want to lose that.”

Smith and City Councilman Alan Summerhays will lose a piece of their own history if the school is demolished. They both attended grade school and middle school there.

“It’s tugging at me," Summerhays said. "It’s going to be hard if they decide to tear it down and not to drive past it and see it.”

The need to provide services to Draper’s residents without raising taxes is also tugging at Summerhays and fellow council members as they decide the Park School’s future.

“We know it puts the responsibility on our shoulders to find the funding," Smith said.

Private funding efforts are picking up as details of Goeckeritz' “Arts at the Park” campaign spreads. Charter school developers, the Draper Visual Arts Foundation and others looking for a place to teach and showcase the arts are excited about the old school’s potential.

“Draper has always had a strong interest in the arts, the visual and the performing arts,” Smith said. In fact, back in the 1920s, students at Draper Park Elementary raised enough money to purchase a Norman Rockwell painting that now hangs in Draper Elementary.

Those promoting this revival are realistic. They know staging a multimillion-dollar comeback will take time.

“We’re hoping for a little bit of time from our City Council so we can move forward with this great project," Goeckeritz said.

Summerhays said it’s time for the council to make a decision, and an up or down vote on an estimated $300,000 demolition contract is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 16.

For those passionate about saving the school, there will be no rest until that final vote is taken. Goeckeritz said her kids told her, “Of course, we’re not stopping until we have an answer."

Email: solney@ksl.com

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