PROVO — Call off the bulldozers.

A plan is in the works to save Maeser Elementary School, which is to be razed if there isn't a viable way to keep the century-old building standing.

Provo City School District officials are interested in a proposal by a developer to use the two-story school at 150 S. 500 East as a frame for condominiums or apartments.

Three offers for the 103-year-old building and the 3.69-acre lot have been made, according to district officials.

One of the three proposals gained favor with Provo's school board "because it would preserve the building," said Greg A. Hudnall, an administrator who has overseen the process to find a new use for the now-empty school.

The developer, Kenneth T. Holman, from Overland Management, met last week with representatives from the district and the neighborhood, to explain the plans.

Before the proposal was made to the district, bells were tolling for Maeser school, named after Brigham Young University's first president.

Under pressure by residents and historic-building preservationists, the school board this summer reversed a decision to tear down the school, which closed this fall when children were sent to a new school in southeast Provo.

But a deadline to raise $300,000 for renovations — and, most important, find a tenant who can afford to fork over $100,000 each year in rent — expires today.

Despite a publicity campaign and donation drive organized by a group of residents, bucketloads of contributions didn't materialize. Renters couldn't be found, either.

"It's been slow," said Kena Mathews, an organizer of Friends of Maeser, the foundation. "It's been really hard to keep the momentum going, because we've all been busy with our work and lives. This could be a full-time job."

But Hudnall said he will ask the school board to delay a decision on Maeser's fate for another six months — a move that has inspired some hope for those aghast at the thought of a wrecking ball smashing into the Provo landmark.

The school board is scheduled to vote today on what the district will do with the property at a 7 p.m. meeting at district headquarters, 280 W. 940 North.

The asking price is $800,000 to $1.2 million for the property, which became a target for vandals when vacated.

Mathews said the proposal to use the school as a frame for apartments "has the most potential." The group wants to see the original building remain standing while also "adding value" to the neighborhood, she said.

"It think if it is done right, there will be a benefit to the community," she said.


E-mail: jeffh@desnews.com